Prostate cancer survivor: MD Anderson is the only place to be
Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2020, neither my wife nor I had ever heard of MD Anderson. We’re both from upstate New York, where other hospitals are more familiar.
But three things happened soon after my diagnosis that persuaded me MD Anderson is the only place to be. Now, I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Two doctors, two states, two recommendations
The first thing that happened was actually kind of funny. As I said, I’d never even heard of MD Anderson until three summers ago. Then, I was told to go there twice, and by two different people.
The first was my oncologist in upstate New York, which kind of surprised me. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital where he worked could not perform the recommended surgery right away. He said my cancer was very slow-growing, so that didn’t worry him. But to me, the delay was unacceptable.
The oncologist knew that my wife and I lived full-time in our motorcoach, traveling around the U.S. So, he suggested we drive down to Texas and go to MD Anderson. That’s what he said he would do if he were in my shoes.
My wife, Brenda, and I decided to do it. But first, we sent my records to a radiologist friend who lives in Florida. He said, “Well, we can treat that here, too. But since you’re already traveling, if you can go to MD Anderson, I’d say do that.”
For those of you who aren’t counting, that’s two different specialists from two different states telling me to go someplace I’d never even heard of before — when they both worked at reputable hospitals themselves. That was enough to convince me. So, I made an appointment.
A more accurate prostate cancer diagnosis
The second thing that happened was kind of a “good news, bad news” type of deal. Once we got to MD Anderson, we met with urologic surgeon Dr. John Ward. He examined me and reviewed all my records and scans. Then, he asked MD Anderson’s pathologists to re-evaluate my initial biopsy slides and ordered a special MRI so that the next biopsy could target the mass identified by the original radiologist.
The good news was that nobody at MD Anderson could find a mass on my prostate, despite using advanced imaging techniques and better equipment. The bad news was that the pathology report from the second biopsy showed I had a slightly more aggressive type of cancer than I’d originally thought, and it was scattered throughout the gland.
Naturally, I was disappointed to learn I had more prostate cancer and a meaner type. But even though the news was bad, MD Anderson did us a real service by sharing it. The thoroughness of their evaluation gave me confidence in the accuracy of their diagnosis. And that made me want to seek treatment there.
Personalized disability accommodations made my care exceptional
The third thing that happened was what clinched the deal.
I had a stroke 19 years ago that rewired my brain and left me with some significant cognitive issues. I can’t always remember or process information correctly, so my wife has to accompany me to all of my medical appointments. The stroke also left me with severe anxiety issues. That’s why I have a service dog, Loki. He keeps me calm, stable and focused whenever I get stressed or overstimulated.
Everybody at MD Anderson understands and respects my need for these accommodations. But they didn’t just embrace my wife and Loki as a part of my care team; they also went a step beyond. When I came in for my second biopsy, MD Anderson made special arrangements so that they could be with me in the waiting room right before the procedure and in a private recovery room afterward.
I can’t even describe what it was like to be coming out of sedation and have someone say, “Mr. Bott, you have some visitors,” and then pull back a curtain to reveal Brenda and Loki sitting there. It really was the most touching thing. And, of course, it reduced my anxiety immediately.
Extra efforts like that show you that the faculty and staff at MD Anderson aren’t just there for the job. They’re there for the patients. They are paying attention. And they really care.