I began my journey about five years ago when I had some temporary blindness. I went to the doctor and my blood counts were low, so I was sent to a hematologist oncologist.
After a bone marrow biopsy, I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Once I got my diagnosis, I went straight to MD Anderson.
My doctor at MD Anderson was Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D., in the Department of Leukemia. I can't say enough good things about this man. From my first appointment with him, I knew he was the best doctor in the world. It turns out he's considered the leading authority in the world on my disease.
I never doubted him, did everything he told me to do and constantly sought his advice.
When my MDS became more vicious and progressive last spring, I became transfusion dependent and my quality of life was deteriorating, he decided it was transplant time. It was now riskier not to have the transplant than to wait. He also told me that after the transplant and when I no longer had MDS, he would no longer be my doctor.
I had a stem cell transplant on May 24, 2011. Chitra Hosing, M.D., is my stem cell transplant doctor and I love her. She has a great team. She has helped bring me out of some tough times. Just as I had with Dr. Garcia-Manero, I have extreme confidence in her. The thing I want to stress is that the doctors and staff at MD Anderson are the best. They are so caring and compassionate. That's why MD Anderson is number one.
I've learned so much on my journey. I want to give a few helpful hints for other patients.
Ask for the medical rate. If you're traveling into Houston, be sure to ask your hotel for the medical rate. Most hotels will give you a discount, even though they don't advertise it. The Jesse H. Jones Rotary House is connected to MD Anderson by a skybridge. It's a full-service hotel managed by Marriott. It's so nice to be able to walk or be rolled directly into the hotel from the hospital, especially after having a "procedure."
Bring a tote bag. It's a good idea to have snacks, water, books, magazines, a laptop and a jacket. The hospital can be cold at times, especially with air conditioning, which in Houston is most of the year. You may experience some waiting times, so it's nice to have something to snack on and things to do.
Purchase a prepaid parking chip, if you are going to be there any length of time. This chip loads up for $50 or $100, allows in and out privileges, and only charges a maximum of $12 a day, which saves a lot of money. You also don't have to mess with those kiosks every time.
Get your labs drawn the evening before. You don't have to get up as early and the fast-track lab on the eighth floor can be very busy.
Take notes. With all the information, it's easy to forget what you're supposed to do. Writing it down enables you to go back and reference something when you need it.
Use the skybridge. If you have an appointment in Mays Clinic, it's a separate building, but connected by skybridge to the Main Building. It's a hike but great exercise if you feel up to it. If not, you can catch a ride on a trolley cart. This service runs back and forth all day long.
Be respectful. Treat your health care providers and fellow patients with kindness and respect. It will not only help others going through a difficult time, it will also make you feel a lot happier inside.
We all come here because of the dreaded cancer, but through thoughtfulness and kindness and lots of smiles, hope can lead you through. It just takes a second to show others compassion and do something good.