Ten months ago, doctors told my brother, Eric, that he had squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal cavity. My family and I were concerned, not just about the diagnosis, but also because Eric had previously he survived squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in 2004.
After seeing several doctors in Florida, my brother was conflicted about which treatments to try and not terribly thrilled with the choices he had been given. At the suggestion of one doctor, he began doing some research. That’s how he found Ehab Y Hanna, M.D., at MD Anderson, and he decided that’s where he needed to see. I’m self-employed and have more flexibility than other family members, so I decided to travel with him for support.
Traveling to MD Anderson for squamous cell carcinoma treatment
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you long to hear a doctor say, “This is what I do. I’ve got this.” That’s exactly what Dr. Hanna told us when we met him.
Throughout Eric’s treatment, which included surgery, I was moved by Dr. Hanna’s kindness, expertise and integrity. Eric also was under the care of David Rosenthal, M.D., his radiation oncologist. Dr. Rosenthal managed Eric’s treatment with precision so the radiation wouldn’t affect areas that had been covered by radiation during my brother’s first cancer treatment in 2004.
Thankfully, Eric responded well to his treatment. During the time I spent with him in the Proton Therapy Center, I was stuck by the brave children being treated there. I also was moved by the parents, who managed to stay positive and strong for their children despite the circumstances. This, coupled with my appreciation for MD Anderson, made me want to give back and help in some way.
Capturing the essence of MD Anderson
I’m a photographer and I’m passionate about taking more than just a pretty picture. What really excites me is when I can capture someone’s soul – the life within. No matter what you’re going through, that spirit remains. That’s why I decided to reach out to families of pediatric patients at MD Anderson and ask if they’d like to have their children’s photos taken.
This is something I already had experience with. I volunteer to do it at a local hospital in Florida. Often, but not always, my subjects are terminal, and I photograph them as part of their legacy. I do my best to make it a fun experience and love to see how much the child enjoys seeing him- or herself on camera.
Three families at MD Anderson accepted my offer, and it was incredible to be woven into their lives in such a special way. Despite their fragility, the children’s resolve and strength showed in the photos.
Although I traveled to MD Anderson to care for my brother, I feel like I’m the one who walked away with a sense of renewal. Volunteering my services helped me be a part of something bigger than myself and my brother’s cancer. I’ve been a part of love, and for that I’m lucky.