Lung cancer survivor: 3 things to love about MD Anderson
Rachel Chua Bradley
When I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer at age 50, I received treatment from a local oncologist, close to my home in northern Virginia. But when the cancer came back just a few years later, I went to MD Anderson.
I was not satisfied with the possible outcomes of the treatment plan my original oncologist suggested. If this was my last chance to live, I wanted to go to the best. And that meant MD Anderson, the No. 1 cancer hospital in the nation.
MD Anderson’s doctors listen to you — and don’t rush
I knew I’d made the right decision almost the minute I walked in. Because at MD Anderson, the doctors really take the time to talk with you — and they don’t rush you through your appointments. They give you their absolute best — and their undivided attention.
I felt like my first oncologist didn’t provide me with enough information. He seemed to assume that I was already knowledgeable about my cancer, because I’m an ICU nurse. But oncology is not my specialty, so I really appreciated how my doctors at MD Anderson explained everything. They made sure I understood exactly what was going on and why.
MD Anderson’s doctors work together
Another thing I like about MD Anderson is how well its doctors work together.
I had a rare type of lung cancer called lymphoephithelioma-like carcinoma. Even my medical oncologist said he’d only encountered it a few other times. But he and his colleagues wanted to make absolutely certain that they were giving me the best possible treatment recommendations. So, they researched case studies in medical journals and then presented my case at a monthly tumor board meeting for even more feedback.
Dr. O’Reilly explained that I might not be eligible for radiation therapy, but Dr. Rice wanted to make sure that I’d explored all of my options and had all my questions answered before moving forward. I was so impressed! That really made me feel confident about my choice to go to MD Anderson.
MD Anderson’s doctors are the experts
The best thing about MD Anderson is its doctors’ expertise. When my cancer came back in 2019, my local thoracic oncology surgeon wanted to remove my diaphragm completely, along with my entire right lung. I was told there was a 1 in 5 chance I’d die during the procedure, and another 1 in 5 chance I’d die during the first 30 days of recovery. That really scared me.
But after reviewing my case, Dr. Rice said he didn’t think it was necessary to remove my diaphragm, much less all of my right lung. Even if it had been, I felt like he could have done it with his eyes closed, because he does complex lung surgeries like that almost every day.
By the time Dr. Rice actually did perform my surgery in July 2019, the tumor was much smaller. That’s because I’d already had two rounds of chemotherapy and an immunotherapy drug called pembrolizumab. Those shrank the tumor enough that it actually detached from the lining of my esophagus, making it easier to remove.
I recovered from the surgery very quickly. I was up and walking around the very next morning, even though Dr. Rice had taken out the lower and middle lobes of my right lung, and 36 nearby lymph nodes.
Today, I look great and feel happy. I didn’t have any complications or side effects after the surgery, and I’m not on any maintenance medications for my cancer. So, you’d never know just by looking at me that I basically only have one functional lung.
Why I’ll keep going to MD Anderson
I still go back to MD Anderson every six months for my check-ups. And while I’m not really worried about the lung cancer coming back a third time, I know that my doctors will spot it quickly if it does.
MD Anderson doctors are making new discoveries all the time through clinical trials. So, if my cancer does come back one day, there might well be something new that works perfectly just for me. And that brings me joy — and a lot of hope.