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Three Times a Survivor

Promise -

By Michelle Moore

Nancy Moncrief is grateful for the simple things like life, such as spending quality time reading books to her 7-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Anne Moncrief. Photo by Gini Reed.

Nancy Moncrief of Houston has been a patient at MD Anderson since 1963, beginning at age 12 with her first of three cancer diagnoses.

“When I was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in the seventh grade, my doctors at MD Anderson scheduled my appointments at 3:30 in the afternoon so that I could attend school regularly,” says Moncrief. “When it came to placing the radiation markers, instead of drawing lines they would draw little dots so that no one could really see them. They did this so that I wouldn’t look different from other kids. I told my pediatric oncologist, Dr. Margaret Sullivan, that I didn’t want to see different doctors. She promised me that she would see me every time, and she did.”

In 1976, at 25, shortly after her wedding, Moncrief had her thyroid removed after a routine visit to the gynecologist revealed thyroid cancer. Eighteen years later, at 42, she found a lump in her breast. It was indeed breast cancer — the hardest diagnosis, she says, because she was a mother of four by this time, and her youngest was only 9 years old. She didn’t want to leave her children.

Moncrief says she wouldn’t be here if not for MD Anderson.“ In the 47 years I’ve been going there, everyone has been so special, and I don’t know how they do this every day. I know they’re not just kind to me, it’s everyone. They’re nice, caring and very loving.”

Moncrief has been in residential real estate for 35 years. She makes time to be an active advocate for cancer awareness and spends as much time as possible visiting with other patients. Moncrief has volunteered for MD Anderson in a number of ways. She has handled RSVPs for many of the institution’s fundraising events, including Marvin’s Million Dollar Dream, a 1996 celebration of broadcast journalist Marvin Zindler’s 75th birthday that netted $1.3 million for breast and prostate cancer research.

“My husband died from esophageal cancer two years ago,” Moncrief says. “I know the importance of cancer awareness. You have to take the bull by the horns and get proactive. I’ve always been able to contact my doctors at MD Anderson when someone calls me with a fear that they might have cancer or have been recently diagnosed with cancer. I even spoke at an event, and I remember it being kind of overwhelming. I brought pictures of my children, my four boys and my granddaughter. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and I don’t think it’s uncommon to hear a cancer survivor say that.”

Moncrief is an advocate for MD Anderson’s research and prevention programs as well.

“I love MD Anderson. If there is ever a need there, I’m certainly happy to do whatever I can. The doctors are committed, and they’re there for you, and I thank God that they are,” she says. “There’s a reason that MD Anderson is No. 1, and it starts with the people. I feel lucky that I had MD Anderson, not once, not twice, but three times in my life.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center