Best of MD Anderson 2019: Cancer survivors’ and caregivers’ stories of hope
During the past year, dozens of our patients and caregivers have shared their stories with us. Some dealt with proving a terminal diagnosis wrong. Others involved struggles with a challenging treatment, or making the best of life after cancer. The one thing they all have in common is hope.
Here are some of our patients’ most inspiring tales from 2019. Our wish is that they will bring you hope, too.
Jeannie Hopper will always speak with a lisp and have trouble swallowing. But she’s grateful to be alive after a stage IV oral cancer diagnosis, which required the removal of four teeth, the floor of her mouth, and half of her tongue.
“I will never look in the mirror and see the person I expect to,” she says. “But I’m proud I made it, elated with my life and happy to be where I am today.”
Sabrina Dominguez was undergoing treatment for medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, when a nurse advised her to “find her laugh.” She took that advice and found three ways to ease her journey with humor, including making jokes about bodily functions, commiserating with friends, and playing with a rainbow of colorful wigs.
“Whenever my grandmother or mom noticed I was feeling sad, she would put on one of the sillier ones,” she says. “It never failed to make me smile.”
Amanda Nerstad thought only smokers developed lung cancer, until her own diagnosis at age 39. She came to MD Anderson after local doctors said she had less than a year to live. Three years later, she shows no signs of cancer, and the targeted therapy that made it disappear is still keeping her cancer at bay.
“Eventually, my lung cancer will build up resistance to this drug,” she says. “As of right now, the results are wonderful.”
Liza Dora was ready to sacrifice her right eye to save her life after she was diagnosed with a rare type of eye cancer called conjunctival melanoma. Then, she came to MD Anderson, and learned that drastic option wasn’t necessary.
“My vision won’t ever be 20/20 again,” she says. “But I still have both eyes and I don’t need corrective lenses to see.”
When Dusty Bailey’s husband, Mark, was told to get his affairs in order after being diagnosed with a rare skull base tumor, the school librarian put her online research skills to work. That’s when she found MD Anderson’s skull base tumor program — and hope for her spouse.
“When it comes to cancer, MD Anderson is a whole different ball game,” she says. “No one can beat it.”