For cancer patients and caregivers, the support of friends and loved ones can make a big difference. But when you live in another city or state, this can be hard.
There are still ways you can help a cancer patient, though. We asked cancer patients, survivors and caregivers in our Facebook community to share their advice for helping loved ones with cancer from afar. Here's what they said.
- Stay up to date on your friend or loved one's treatment. Learn as much as you can so you can understand what he or she may be going though. If your friend is sharing updates through social media or on a website like CarePages, make sure you're following them. That way, you can respond when your friend or loved one needs it most.
- Send a text message. Sending a short, simple message will let your friend know you care. Try to do this on days when he or she has treatments, follow-up appointments or important scans. Your message could make a big difference during a stressful time.
Continue reading 6 ways to help a cancer patient when you're far away .
By Traci Newsom, social work counselor
As a cancer patient, it often can feel like you've lost control. You can't control your diagnosis, your test results or your cancer treatment side effects. You may even feel like you've loss control over your work, finances and the reactions you receive from loved ones.
When you feel that loss of control, it's important to focus on what you can control. Remind yourself that even when you can't control something, you have the power to decide how you will respond to the situation.
Continue reading How to cope with loss of control as a cancer patient.
By Kayce Smith
I got the call on my 25th birthday. "Kayce," my dermatologist said. "You have stage one melanoma. You need to go to MD Anderson for cancer treatment."
I never thought I'd be facing a melanoma diagnosis -- or any kind of cancer, for that matter. And I certainly didn't expect to be a young adult cancer survivor.
Most of the time when people approached me after hearing about my melanoma diagnosis, they said things like:
- "Wow, you are so young ..."
- "How are your parents dealing with it?"
- "Will you have help financially? If you need extra support, please don't hesitate to call."
Continue reading Life as a young adult cancer survivor: An awkward age.
By Cora Connor
On April 19, 2012, my family's life changed forever. That's when my younger brother, Herman, was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma, a rare kidney cancer associated with sickle cell trait.
From the moment my brother received his diagnosis, I promised I would fight for him. It's a promise I've strived to keep.
Herman's renal medullary carcinoma diagnosis
Months before his renal medullary carcinoma diagnosis, Herman started experiencing back pain. He'd been healthy his entire life and thought it may have been a pulled muscle.
But when he saw traces of blood in his urine, he knew something was wrong. He drove to the emergency room and got an X-ray. It showed a mass inside his kidney. The doctor said it looked like cancer, but he'd have to follow up with a urologist to confirm. After several weeks of testing, the biopsy came back positive for renal medullary carcinoma.
Continue reading Fighting renal medullary carcinoma with my brother.
By Dawn Dorsey
Frank Bauer wasn't looking to be a trailblazer when he made an appointment at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center nine years ago. He just wanted the best prostate cancer treatment.
Little did he know, he'd become our first patient treated with proton therapy.
Finding the best prostate cancer treatment
Frank, an attorney who lives near Sulphur Springs, Texas, was researching prostate cancer treatments options online when he found proton therapy. Proton therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses external beam radiation made of protons instead of photons (e.g., X-rays to treat tumors).
"A couple of my friends had gone to California for treatment, but I didn't want to leave Texas if I didn't have to," Frank says. MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center was being built at the time and just beginning to consult with prospective patients.
Continue reading Meet MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center's first patient .
Being a nurse is much more than just a job. At MD Anderson, our nurses provide care and compassion for our patients throughout their cancer treatment. Every nurse here plays a crucial part in our mission to end cancer.
Each year, we honor our nurses' caring hearts and commitment to our patients during Nurses' Week. In celebration, we asked a few patients and survivors how our nurses helped them during cancer treatment.
Here's what they had to say.
"The nurse that helped me and was the most memorable administered my chemo and checked on me during the process. She had a shaved head. Very striking and pretty. I asked her if she was going through chemo too, and she said, 'No, I do this in honor of my patients, to make them feel more comfortable, and because I just like it this short!' It was nice to see her show her support that way with the patients she cared for.
The nurses in the gynecologic radiation area in Mays Clinic are some of the nicest, most patient nurses I have ever met. They were always answering my questions and helping me understand things. Especially Dr. Patricia Eifel's nurses. They made me smile during a very difficult time with radiation, and I will always appreciate them all!"
"The nurses at MD Anderson were very pivotal in my treatment. I could not have remained in high spirits if it had not been for Theresa Johnson and all of the nurses in the Breast Center."
"Nurses are the right hand AND the left hand of many doctors. They are the person in between the doctor and the patient. At MD Anderson, the nurses are devoted, caring, sensitive, concerned, firm and loyal to their patients. That's why I call them angels.
I'd like to thank Golie at the Lymphoma and Myeloma Center, Laura in the Stem Cell Transplant Center and all the wonderful nurses on my floor after my stem cell transplant. There are too many of them to mention."
Continue reading How our nurses help our patients .
By Michele Longabough
Since my own stage four anal cancer diagnosis five years ago, I have done plenty of reading surrounding what not to say to someone with a stage four cancer diagnosis. Through these articles, I've noticed the list can be quite extensive. After all, there are so many types of cancers and personalities.
But the top comments that seem to appear over and again include, but are not limited to:
Sometimes, the wrong words just come out
- "You can beat this!"
- "Everything will OK!"
- "If you pray and believe enough, God will heal you!"
- "_____ can cure you!"
Trust me when I say this: I have heard it all. And yes, some of the things that people said to me after my anal cancer diagnosis hurt my feelings.
But after thinking about why anybody would say such things, I thought about what I would say if I were faced with a close friend's diagnosis. I knew I, too, would say the wrong things.
Continue reading Why I don't feel offended when people say the wrong things about my cancer diagnosis.
By Lindsey Garner
Nova Sprague always has had a passion for animals, especially dogs. And she never thought she'd work with them instead of people. But MD Anderson drew her in, she says.
After completing her Bachelor of Animal Science from Texas State University, Sprague put her passion for animals to work at an emergency animal clinic in Austin, Texas.
There, as a veterinary technician, she assisted with cases that needed ultrasounds.
She decided to learn to perform the procedure herself and moved home to Houston to enroll in ultrasound school and work at a local veterinary clinic. While doing clinical rotations at MD Anderson, she entertained the idea of working outside veterinary medicine.
"I knew that if I was ever going to do something different, MD Anderson was the only place for me," she says. "There's something special about this place."
Now she works here as a cardiac ultrasound technologist.
Working with people and animals
Sprague enjoys the differences between working with people and with animals.
"Animals don't know what's happening and can't tell you what's wrong," she says. "Our patients share so much with me - from their life stories and struggles to simply how their days are going."
Continue reading Get to know Nova Sprague, cardiac ultrasound technologist .
By Gillian Kruse
A globe-trotting chemist turned-lawyer-turned businessman, Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., sees himself as an agent for some of cancer medicine's biggest stars. As vice president for Strategic Industry Ventures, he helps connect our researchers with pharmaceutical companies, resources and tools to help in their efforts to end cancer.
We recently spoke with Prat to learn more about him. Here's what he had to say.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in a small village on the border of Spain and France called Sant Joan de les Abadesses. It's north of Barcelona and has about 4,000 people. The village is surrounded mostly by factories and sheep.
How many languages do you speak?
I can speak Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and English.
How did you end up in the United States?
I've always been fascinated by the U.S. and the American way of life. My father taught me that there was a lot to be learned from this country, which led me to pursue a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Continue reading First person: Getting to know Ferran Prat.
By Wendy Griffith, social work counselor
Many Americans are beginning to talk about their medical care wishes. This process of making decisions about your future health care is called advance care planning.
Some people avoid advance care planning because they think it's just for the sick or elderly. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Advance care planning is for everyone!
Many people also avoid discussing advance care planning with their loved ones because they're afraid of upsetting them. But most patients and loved ones actually report feeling a sense of relief after they've completed advance care planning.
Today, in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, we're encouraging our cancer patients, survivors, and their families to start the advance care planning process. To help you begin, here are answers to some common questions about advance care planning.
What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is the process of communicating information about a patient's diagnosis, treatment options, life goals, values and wishes. It involves the patient, loved ones, and health care providers. Advance care planning is also more than a one-time event. It will probably involve ongoing conversations. Having these conversations ensures that the patient's preferences are known by the health care team and incorporated into current and future health care plans.
Continue reading 4 questions about advance care planning, answered .
By Ryan Stephens
As if the cancer journey isn't tough enough, imagine being a single parent to a 15-year-old daughter.
That was the case for Constance Charles when her doctor confirmed the cluster of lumps she'd felt around her right breast was breast cancer - stage 2 noninvasive intraductal carcinoma. She had no history of cancer in her family, so the diagnosis was a complete surprise.
Constance was afraid to tell her daughter, Briahna, because she didn't want to think about her having to face the world alone. It had always just the two of them together in Texas. Their closest family members lived in Kansas.
When she finally worked up the courage and broke the news, Briahna asked, "Are you going to die, Mom?"
More than 12 years later, Constance is proud to call herself a cancer survivor and an MD Anderson employee. Constance always tells single parents - or anyone facing cancer - that faith, family and friends are what helped her and Briahna get to this point.
Advice for single parents facing cancer
Here's Constance's advice for single parents facing cancer:
Continue reading A survivor's advice for single parents facing cancer.
By Amanda Swennes
Working as a patient services representative at MD Anderson is a little like doing a puzzle. But there's a catch: new pieces keep appearing, some disappear, and sometimes you get handed several identical pieces.
That's what our 15 full-time and three part-time patient services representatives face each day. Their puzzle is MD Anderson's 667 inpatient beds. The pieces are patients who need to be admitted.
Behind the scenes at MD Anderson
At MD Anderson, there's a lot of collaborating and puzzle-piecing that goes on behind the scenes. It often happens before a patient ever gets here.
First, a bed has to be available. And not just any bed. If a patient requires rehab or needs specialized care and accommodations for, say, a stem cell transplant, then that patient must be assigned to a bed on a floor with specialized clinical staff and equipment.
Patient services representatives have to keep constant tabs on all the patients in the hospital and know which beds are available where. They also need to know what type of diagnosis or treatment a patient has been given so they can assign the right bed.
Continue reading How patient services representatives help our patients.