Today, though, his reflection shows a successful attorney, a community volunteer and, most important, a survivor.
Like many childhood cancer survivors, Cox overcame his cancer, but not without some challenges and side effects along the way.
In 1985, at 14, he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in his right cheek, a tumor affecting muscles that attach to the bone. After a year of chemotherapy at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, he was declared cancer-free.
But six years later, while attending Texas A&M University, Cox was dealt another blow. His cancer had returned. He endured more chemotherapy and radiation, but his cancer kept coming back.
“I weighed the options of having more recurrences or undergoing a major surgery that would cause some disfiguration to my face,” Cox recalls. “The decision made itself.”
Keeping things in perspective
In 1998, he underwent surgery to remove part of his jaw, leaving him with a face he didn’t recognize.
“It was difficult, but you learn to adapt. You get used to people looking at you differently,” he says. “But the doctors at MD Anderson worked hard to restore me.”
While enduring numerous reconstructive surgeries, Cox entered law school at the University of Houston. He scheduled surgeries around the holidays, summers and breaks so he wouldn’t have to miss school.
Cox now specializes in probate litigation at the law firm of Galligan and Manning in Houston.
In remission for almost 13 years, he continues to come to MD Anderson for follow-up care. His only lingering side effect from treatment is high blood pressure, which he combats with medication, regular exercise and diet.
Today, Cox helps other cancer patients and survivors by serving on the steering committee for Anderson Network, an MD Anderson patient-to-patient program.
“The best thing to do is volunteer. It keeps things in perspective,” he says. “Helping others helps you.”