Education: Patient Profile
Annual Report - 2006-2007
By Asma Siddiqi
Debra Enge-Thomas is a wife of eight years, a mother of two and a colorectal cancer survivor, but she feels like a teenager. She’s never felt so good.
Instead of dealing with pain and exhaustion, she can now go to parties with her husband, spend more quality time with her son and daughter, and focus on the fourth grade class she teaches.
As a longtime patient dealing with Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the digestive tract), Enge-Thomas routinely underwent colonoscopies and gastroenterology exams to monitor her disease. So, when she learned she had colorectal cancer, she was shocked. “My cancer had progressed to stage III before it was discovered.”
Enge-Thomas turned to her sister for help. A pathologist and cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health, her sister heard about James Abbruzzese, M.D., through her colleagues. On Enge-Thomas’ behalf, she made some inquires, and Abbruzzese, chair of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, agreed to see her.
In May 2007, Enge-Thomas moved from her home in Dallas to Houston for six months to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments at M. D. Anderson. When she arrived for her first appointment, she immediately noticed that the “staff seemed ready to help and that everyone always had a smile on their face.”
Although it was a difficult time for her, Enge-Thomas refused to give up hope. She felt that God was on her side and she had the support of her family. The experience made her realize that cancer didn’t have to be the last word.
Since returning to Dallas in August, she’s resumed teaching and is enjoying being back in the classroom. “I love when children finally utter ‘ohhhhh now I get it. It goes like this,’” says Enge-Thomas, who taught high school biology in Houston, before moving to Dallas to teach elementary schoolchildren how to read and write.
Enge-Thomas says of her cancer experience, “I just want everyone to be treated at M. D. Anderson, and hope they can do for everyone what they were able to do for me. They’re truly angelic.”