Whether designing computer systems as a management consultant in the oil-and-gas industry or earning an MBA at Rice University, Charlotte Jones is used to setting ambitious goals for herself. In pre-pandemic days, you might have had to go hiking in Patagonia to find the retiree, avid traveler and three-time cancer survivor.
The Charlotte H. Jones Memorial Fund, which will be established through an IRA bequest, will provide funding to further genetic and related research at MD Anderson. This planned gift follows the Houston resident’s long history of supporting our Annual Fund.
While Charlotte understands the suffering caused by cancer, she lives her life with a positive outlook.
It’s easy for her to discuss her motivation to leave a generous legacy to MD Anderson. “I’ve been a patient since the early 1980s. I feel a little like I’m cheating because I’ve never had chemotherapy or radiation,” Jones says, recounting three separate cancer diagnoses. “They’ve always caught everything very early.”
Facing multiple cancer diagnoses
At age 25, Charlotte had thyroid cancer. She was cured with surgery and drinking radioactive iodine. Next, what she thought was a fibroid in 2005 turned out to be a rare type of gynecologic cancer, endometrial stromal sarcoma. “The tumor feeds off estrogen, so after a hysterectomy, I just had to take a pill that keeps estrogen out of my system,” she says.
Her one regret is that her late husband did not come to MD Anderson for treatment. He died of lung cancer in 2013.
That same year, Charlotte also had breast cancer and opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction. She underwent genetic investigations to see if a genetic explanation could be found for her having several types of cancer.
“That’s part of what got me interested in leaving a legacy that might support genetic research,” she notes.
Taking each day as it comes
Charlotte was unfazed by an endometrial sarcoma recurrence in 2019. She started the estrogen inhibitor again. “I’ll take it for life, which I can totally live with,” she says. “I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to go to MD Anderson, which has the best research. To be able to give a little something back and help fund that research is very important to me.”
Noting her multiple diagnoses, she says, “It would be easy to give up, but I could sit around and mope and then get hit by a truck tomorrow — and I would have spent today worrying about the cancer!”
Charlotte adds, “I try to not let cancer define me. I’d rather be defined by singing in a choir,” which she does for her Houston church. She plays golf, attends theater and opera, and works out. She believes that lifting weights helped keep her from losing bone density due to hormone therapy. She plans to resume hiking in Latin America and beyond when the pandemic subsides.
It all boils down to her own words of wisdom: “Don’t let a diagnosis of cancer eliminate your hope.”
Leaving a legacy
Qualified retirement plans, such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs), represent a major portion of the average person’s estate. Due to special tax considerations, they make an excellent choice for funding a testamentary charitable gift.
Individuals like Charlotte may make bequests of retirement plans to:
make a significant charitable bequest while continuing to take withdrawals during their lifetime.
avoid income and estate tax possibly levied on their retirement account, and/or
give their most-taxed asset to MD Anderson while leaving more favorably taxed property to heirs.
During your lifetime, you designate MD Anderson as beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k), 403(b), pension or other tax-deferred plan. This is done by simply completing a beneficiary designation form provided by your plan administrator. Your gift may be designated to a specific program or area of research at