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Survivors Say: Wyatt McSpadden

Promise - Summer 2012

Wyatt McSpadden, of Austin, Texas, has been a freelance photographer since 1976, his work appearing in Texas Monthly, the New York Times, Fortune and People, among others. McSpadden has worked on various MD Anderson assignments for almost a decade. University of Texas Press published his book, “Texas BBQ,” in 2009.

I've been taking pictures for 
MD Anderson's communications team since 2003. If you’ve traveled the institution’s hallways, you’ve likely seen my work on the walls. I’ve logged countless miles walking, pushing gear from building to building, wandering hallways and getting lost ― and found again ― in this enormous city within a city.

My familiarity with MD Anderson came in handy when a friend battling lymphoma received a stem cell transplant there in 2011. I had the good fortune of being with him as he prepared for, endured and completed his arduous (and successful) transplant process. It struck me that I’d spent years in training to be an MD Anderson ‘escort.’

On Aug. 30, 2011, I had surgery to remove a supposedly benign tumor in my left parotid (salivary) gland. A month later, my wife, Nancy, and I found ourselves at 
MD Anderson as patient and caregiver, roles we’d never imagined for ourselves. My cancer is lymphoepithelioma, a rare disease that affects about seven people per million in the United States. My nine weeks of chemotherapy began in early October, followed by 33 doses of daily radiation plus weekly chemo that wrapped up in late January 2012. On April 23, doctors said my first post-treatment PET scan looked “perfect.” I’m officially in remission.

My newfound insights from the patient’s perspective will definitely inform the work I do for MD Anderson. I’m incredibly grateful to have been treated there and hope to share that gratitude with anyone, anywhere, I have the privilege of photographing.

Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center