Early in my cancer journey, my wife Sarah made an interesting observation. "You know what it's like to be a cancer patient," she said. "But you don't know what it's like to have a family member who's a cancer patient."
She was absolutely right. I had an idea of what my family was feeling, but I didn't really know how they felt. I wasn't the one who had a family member with cancer.
I knew how to be a cancer patient, but not how to be a supporter or caregiver for someone with cancer.
From that point on, and especially after coming to MD Anderson, I've spent a lot of time thinking about cancer's impact on the people who love them.
As patients, we have resources to help us deal with the physical and emotional toll of cancer. But what about our family members, friends and caregivers? What's available to make their journey easier?
Orientation classes to help learn about MD Anderson
MD Anderson actually has a wide variety of resources for supporters and caregivers, just like they do for patients.
For instance, MD Anderson offers orientation classes for new patients and families. These classes cover everything from finding your way around campus, working with your health care team, learning about your cancer and setting up a myMDAnderson account. This can be especially helpful when you consider how daunting the first visit can be.
Website just for patients and families
myMDAnderson is a website where patients and their families can look up or schedule appointments. You can also use myMDAnderson to verify your contact information and message your health care team or other MD Anderson departments like Patient Business Services or the pharmacy.
MyMDAnderson users can even keep an online journal about your cancer treatment and check your medical records.
To get Access, you just have to be a patient and choose a user name and a password.
If you're like many patients, you and your family may have to travel far to get to MD Anderson. Thankfully, there's help for that, too.
On the website, you'll find a links to help you choose from different lodging options.
MD Anderson's Patient Travel Services also can help you make reservations and secure discounts on flights, lodging and ground transportation.
Services for families at MD Anderson
Once you're at MD Anderson, you'll probably be focused on your cancer treatment.
But your family can take advantage of services, including fun group activities for kids, a concierge service that offers details about Houston-area attractions and support groups that focus on family and caregivers needs. If your family members need something to read, MD Anderson has several well-stocked libraries, as well as free Wi-Fi.
Counseling and spiritual help are available, too, along with information on of cancer available in The Learning Center.
Encourage your family to take advantage of MD Anderson resources
Part of what makes MD Anderson stand out is its commitment to meeting all of your needs, not just your medical ones. That applies to your family and loved ones, too. After all, they're a part of the treatment process and what affects you definitely affects them.
So, encourage your loved ones to take advantage of everything MD Anderson has to offer.
This way, you won't be making the journey alone and neither will they. Positive reinforcement and support can make the journey easier and the outcome better for you and your family.
Mike Snyder's cancer journey began with a sore left knee in the mid-1990s. After a variety of tests and minor surgery to correct the problem, he was diagnosed with a specific type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. In spring 2011, his doctor recommended that he switch to a hospice-type care because his tumors were growing too fast. This was an answer he refused to accept.