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Lymphoma, Sarcoma Patient Stays Positive

By Lana Maciel

  Carrie Simpson with daughters Cara (left) 
  and Bailey

When cancer tried to bring Carrie Simpson down, she fought back not once, not twice, but three times with her best and strongest weapons — a positive attitude and an unshakable will.

You’d never guess that Simpson, 31, has endured the long and grueling journey of cancer three times. 

Through chemotherapy, radiation and seven surgeries to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor from her back, Simpson says she always managed to count her blessings.

“Some things in life could make you bitter, but you have a choice, and I made the choice to stay positive,” she says. “It’s the only way I’ve ever looked at life. I think that’s what helped me get through it all.”

Simpson’s first diagnosis — Hodgkin’s lymphoma — came in 1999 when she was 20. A college student, she kept her mind off her condition with classes and school activities. After treatment, she went into remission for seven years.

But in 2007, she learned that cancer had again invaded her body.

This time, Simpson was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma sarcoma, a disease that might have been caused by earlier radiation treatments.

A tumor was removed from her back, but just months later another tumor had formed in the same area. This one was lodged in her rib cage, so surgeons had to remove an area the size of a football.

But even this didn’t dampen Simpson’s spirits.

“I had a really huge support system of my husband, mom, dad, stepdad, brothers, and my entire family and network of friends,” she says. “During the second occurrence, I had my two daughters, Bailey and Cara, who were 1½ and 3 years old, and they always kept me smiling.

“I was blessed to have them all there.”

Nurturing hope in others

To remove the cancer, Simpson underwent chemotherapy at MD Anderson to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery, in which three of her ribs were removed. Two years later, she is cancer-free.

Though Simpson no longer has full use of the muscles in her back, the Dallas resident and stay-at-home mom says she’s learned to adjust.

She continues to spread her positive attitude and hope as a telephone support volunteer for the Anderson Network and through her website, Cancerbiographies.com, a resource for patients, survivors, caregivers and their families to obtain educational materials and products, share their “cancer biographies” and offer encouragement to other patients.

“After having cancer, you never go back to the way life was,” she says. “For people experiencing this change, I want them to know there are many others going through the same thing and they’re not alone.

“My website reaches people all over the world, so I feel I survived for a reason — to help others.”

To become a telephone support volunteer or to be connected with another caregiver or survivor, contact the Anderson Network, a program of the Department of Volunteer Services.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center