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Conquest.JPGWhether you have an upcoming CT scan or are expecting news from your doctor, waiting can cause anxiety, worry and stress. You might have trouble sleeping or feel impatient with your loved ones. All of this is completely normal. Here at MD Anderson, we call that scanxiety.

The good news is there are many ways to deal with scanxiety. To help make the waiting game a little easier, we asked our Facebook community how they cope with the stress or anxiety before an important scan or appointment. Here's what they had to say:

  • Pray. Many of our patients and caregivers said they found comfort in prayer. Because they feel a loss of control, praying allows them do what they can and then let go of those anxious feelings.
  • Have faith and confidence in your care team. Know that our doctors and the rest of your care team will take care of everything. That's their job.
  • Listen to your favorite music. Whether you're in the waiting room, in your car or at home or work, music can help you escape from the realities of cancer, or find the strength and determination to face them head-on.
  • Find humor. Nothing eases tension like laughter.

jaymee225.jpgBy Jaymee Fiskum

I wasn't the only one diagnosed with anaplastic large T cell lymphoma small cell variant (ALCL) in May 2013. My entire family took on my cancer journey as if it was their own.

Because of them, I consider myself lucky -- as weird as it may sound. I have so much support in my life. It motivated me to fight harder. I couldn't let myself down, but I couldn't let all of them down either.

How my family helped me cope with ALCL
Each one of my family members played a huge part in my cancer journey.

After my doctor told me I had ALCL. In September 2013, I began six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant. I was very fortunate enough to have my sister as my donor. Who would've thought letting her borrow my clothes all those years would pay off?

jasiarussell220.jpgBy Carol Bryce

Growing up in Jefferson, Texas, Jasia Russell, didn't know anything about physical therapy.
That changed when Russell was 16 and her beloved grandfather suffered an abdominal aneurysm.

"He'd been a farmer and a rancher -- a very active man," she recalls. "Then he had to have both legs amputated above the knees. I thought he'd be bedridden for the rest of his life."
But thanks to physical therapy, Russell's grandfather regained his independence.

"He'd go from riding his power chair or golf cart to mowing the lawn on his four-wheeler. He lived another eight years and had very good quality of life," she says.

When she saw the impact physical therapy can have on a patient, she decided to become a physical therapist.

Preparing for a career at MD Anderson

After earning a bachelor of science in Kinesiology at the University of North Texas in Denton and spending "three years of blizzards" completing a doctorate in physical therapy near Chicago, Russell returned to Texas. She was finishing her final physical therapy rotation at another Houston hospital when something caught her eye.

"I was driving around the medical center and noticed MD Anderson's buildings," she recalls.
"And I thought, 'What an incredible place that would be to work.' "

bobbrigham217.jpgBy Lindsay Lewis

Last month, MD Anderson gained a new leader for our inpatient and outpatient clinical operations. Bob Brigham, our new senior vice president for Hospital and Clinics, is excited about his new role -- and supporting our mission to end cancer.

We recently spoke with Brigham to learn more about him and his plans for improving our patients' experiences at MD Anderson. Here's what he had to say:

What experience do you bring?
I worked at the Mayo Clinic for 36 years. My career path there afforded me the opportunity to develop a diverse set of health care experiences. After starting as a staff nurse, I moved through a number of roles, including nurse manager, operating room director and nursing director, as well as clinic and hospital administration. I worked with patients and staff in many clinical and administrative areas. From 2005 until I started here, I was chief administrative officer and chair of administration at the Jacksonville, Florida, campus, leading Mayo's patient care and non-patient care operations in the southeast.

What inspired you to enter nursing?

When I was in college, my interests and skills leaned toward careers in health care. I was fortunate to have a radiologist friend who was willing to let me spend a January term with him. I saw firsthand many of the different roles within health care. I particularly resonated with one person who was passionate about life, his family and the work he did every day as a nurse. That career hadn't occurred to me, given the few men in nursing in the 1970s, but the thought of entering the field and doing something different excited me.

bentz217.jpgBy Lindsay Lewis and Mindy Loya

Five years ago, Gary Bentz was completing the last of his 34 radiation treatments and his third round of chemotherapy to destroy a tumor at the base of his tongue -- along with the cancer cells that spread to nearby lymph nodes. His cancer was stage 4.

Today, Bentz -- who's cancer-free -- is back at MD Anderson, but for a much different reason. He's one of 28 patient advisors who are volunteering their time to help us shape policies and programs to improve the patient experience.

Why we need patient feedback and involvement
Bentz and the other members of our Patient and Family Advisory Council come to MD Anderson at least once a month to share stories and provide feedback on issues impacting our patients.

And, many of them now serve on committees that previously only included our employees.

"Having a patient at the table with us is very powerful," says John Bingham, vice president for Performance Improvement. His Patient Safety Committee was one of the first to request patient involvement. "It'll accelerate our efforts to keep our patients safer."

Cuchapin216.jpgBy Lindsey Garner

Chris Cuchapin is proud to be one of the first faces patients and their families see when they visit MD Anderson.

As a patient services coordinator in Diagnostic Imaging, Cuchapin checks patients in at the front desk and keeps them updated on the status of their appointments while they wait.

After several of his family members were diagnosed with the disease, he joined MD Anderson to try to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Inspired by his family's experiences, he does his best to make our patients feel welcome. You often can find him handing out warm blankets and coffee, and when he has time, strumming on his ukulele.

"I remember my family saying how they appreciated it when a hospital felt more like a home," he says. "I just want to do my best to brighten patients' days and let them know I'm here for them."

The backbone of MD Anderson

Patient services coordinators balance requests from the entire care team, patients and family members.

"They're the backbone of MD Anderson in a lot of ways," says Elizabeth Lottinger, a Human Resources consultant. "They often set the stage for what the patient experience is going to be."

Their responsibilities vary depending upon where they work at MD Anderson. Their duties can include scheduling appointments; entering doctors' orders for medications, tests and procedures; answering patients' scheduling questions submitted to our health information specialists; and responding to non-medical requests.

Often compared to jugglers and air traffic controllers, our patient services coordinators help keep the flow of a clinic or center in check while also directing our employees and our supplies where they need to be.

Scheduling appointments is far more complex than it seems, Neicy Leonard shares. A patient services coordinator in our Colorectal Center, she compares it to playing chess.

Melanie24.jpgBy Melanie Steel

Three years ago, my family began bracing for the battle of our lives. My dad had just been diagnosed with melanoma.

We knew very little about melanoma, so we began to read everything we could in order to know what we were facing. The numbers scared us. The survival rates paralyzed us. All of this was new and frightening. Then, we took a collective deep breath.

As we learned about this ugly disease, we could not stop thinking about two important, life-saving areas of education: melanoma risk factors and the importance of early detection. We realized that if more people knew what makes them more likely to develop melanoma, lives could be saved. We also realized that if more people recognized melanoma symptoms  early, more lives could be saved.

Finding a voice after my dad's melanoma diagnosis

My family was in a unique position. Due to my dad's melanoma diagnosis, we were learning about a disease that previously we had known little about. We were talking with friends, family members and acquaintances who were asking how they could help. These conversations gave us an opportunity to raise awareness and educate others about melanoma. This was a beautiful gem hidden in the midst of our difficulties.

krista12615.jpgIn the summer of 2005, after her pediatrician noticed a lump on her neck, Krista and her parents went to see an endocrinologist near their hometown of Chicago. That's when they learned she'd need surgery to remove an egg-sized tumor in her neck.

Krista, who was just 11 years old at the time, barely understood the diagnosis. But she knew it was serious. "I went onto my dad's lap and cried because I was scared," she recalls.
A couple days after the surgery, doctors confirmed the diagnosis: follicular thyroid cancer.

Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for only about 10% of thyroid cancers, and most cases occur in adults, not children like Krista. In fact, according to Krista's doctor, Steven Waguespack, M.D., only about seven cases of follicular thyroid cancer are diagnosed in children ages 10-14 each year.

Krista wondered why this happened to her. "I felt normal and healthy," she says.

The diagnosis was a complete surprise for her parents, too. "We didn't know anything about follicular thyroid cancer when we got the phone call," says Krista's father, Jim. "I was devastated, but I could not let Krista see how scared I was."

Making the decision to come to MD Anderson

Ten days after Krista's first surgery and confirmed follicular thyroid cancer diagnosis, she had a second surgery to remove her left thyroid lobe.

Shortly afterwards, Krista's family learned that the second surgery had been an incomplete thyroidectomy and that she'd need another delicate surgery.

That's when the family started looking for hospitals with experience treating follicular thyroid cancer in children. The family researched and saw countless doctors and wrote many letters before deciding to make the 900-mile trip to MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital.

Dianna Ray130.jpgBy Dianna Ray

I had a very short breast cancer treatment journey -- a scant six weeks from diagnosis to cure, thanks to  early detection following a routine mammogram and the care I received at MD Anderson in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center's Multi Team Clinic. I'm lucky to have been able to get all of my care in one place close to my home in Houston.

Early detection saved my life

I've been getting annual mammograms since my 30s because I have fibrocystic breasts, a common condition that causes benign lumps or pain in the breasts.  

About 10 years ago, my doctor found an area of microcalcifications (a small cluster of calcium) and ordered a biopsy. Thankfully, everything was fine.

So, when the same condition presented itself again on my most recent mammogram in August 2014, I wasn't too concerned. But five days after the biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.

brittanynurse127.jpgBy Brittany Hurst

I did not realize how much I depended on my medical team until my second ovarian cancer diagnosis. During summer 2014, I spent a total of 70 days in the hospital. I spent 58 of them at MD Anderson.

I can honestly say that those days might have been some of the toughest days of my life. I have always been a happy person even in spite of my ovarian cancer journey, but that summer was physically and emotionally exhausting. I had a nasogastric (or NG) tube to help me breathe, underwent two surgeries and started chemotherapy again. I did not know when I would be going home, and every day I prayed it was that day. But I made it through that tough time, thanks to a lot of help from my family, friends -- and my nurses.

Coping with my second ovarian cancer diagnosis with help from nurses

Your nurses are with you 24/7 during a hospital stay. They are the ones you email if you have questions, and they are your lifeline to your doctor. They are constantly writing notes in your chart to update your doctors and are by your bedside at the press of the button.

I not only looked at my nurses as my caregivers, but I also felt as if they were some of my best friends. As I learned, having a great relationship with your nurses helps them know the best way to help take care of you. If it was time for one of my dreaded shots, I had certain nurses give them to me. If I was having a bad day, they made sure to get me out of the room. They were kind when I needed someone besides my family and friends to talk to, and they were stern when they needed to be.

yasupport.jpgBy Wendy Griffith, Social work counselor

Appointments. Side-effects. Medications. Side-effects from medications. More sickness. Lengthy tests. Hospitalizations. It can be a lot at any age, but for young adults (generally those ages of 18 to 39), it can be especially so at a time when it feels like life is just really getting started. How are you supposed to manage all of that, much less cope with it?  

The answer is different for every person. But if there is one thing that can help young adults cope with cancer, it's social support. In fact, that's true for cancer patients of all ages.

What is social support?
Social support essentially refers to the feeling of comfort, care and connection that you get from others. "Others" could be immediate family, extended family, close friends, acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers, and yes, even strangers. These individuals might help you by providing emotional support, physical support, financial assistance, laughter, motivation, distraction or a combination of all of the above. It all depends on what you need or want, and that can completely change from day to day.

Why social support is important

No matter what your exact situation is, being sick can get lonely.  

Even patients with incredible support systems feel alone from time to time, or need a little extra boost from outside their network. We need different things, at different times, from all kinds of different people.

pathology_group_163_Edited.jpgBy Carol Bryce

It's not unusual for a patient to arrive at MD Anderson with one diagnosis and leave with a different one.

For example, when approximately 2,700 patient cases were reviewed during September 2011, 25% showed discrepancies between the original pathologists' reports and our pathologists' reports. While the changes in diagnosis were minor in 18.7%, in the other 6.2%, the diagnosis change made a major difference.

"In some of those cases, we changed the diagnosis from malignant to benign or vice versa," explains Lavinia Middleton, M.D., professor in Pathology. "That adds up to approximately 2,000 cases per year where we can say that our pathologists' reviews have impacted patients' treatment.

"Changing the diagnosis from malignant to benign is the best call to make. This makes us feel really good."

"Review of outside material is a major component of the work done by our Pathology and Hematopathology departments," adds Stanley Hamilton, M.D., division head in Pathology/Laboratory Medicine. "The correct pathologic diagnosis and stage of each tumor are key to high quality care for patients."

How we make the correct diagnosis
So why do we find things overlooked by other health care institutions?

"Our system here helps us make the right cancer diagnosis. It's based on three things: sub-specialization, volume and redundancy," Middleton explains.


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