In 1980, Jack Brown was 38 and busy working in oilfield sales. When a lump appeared on his left groin, he ignored it until his wife, Bobbie, urged him to visit a doctor.
His New Iberia, Louisiana doctor removed the tumor, and a biopsy showed it was cancer. “It really rocked our world,” Bobbie says. “We thought cancer was the end. Jack started making final plans.”
Jack remembers asking the doctor what he suggested. “He suggested MD Anderson. The nurse called on Friday and we got an appointment on Tuesday,” he says.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment at MD Anderson
Jack and Bobbie remember MD Anderson being much smaller back then. Jack met with Peter W. McLaughlin, M.D., whose team performed a biopsy and gave Jack his official diagnosis: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
McLaughlin determined that Jack’s spleen needed to be removed to stop the cancer from spreading. After a splenectomy, Jack underwent five weeks of radiation.
“They had a radiation room in the basement of the main building,” Jack says of MD Anderson in 1980. “They put lead blocks on you to try to shield and target the radiation areas. There was a big metal door, and nurses would talk to you through the speaker system.”
Jack was able to receive his year of chemotherapy treatments at the hospital back home. “They put ice bags on your head then to keep the hair from falling out. It worked for about three treatments, and then one morning it all came out in my comb,” Jack remembers.
Life after lymphoma treatment
After his lymphoma treatment put him into remission, Jack came to MD Anderson periodically for checkups until 2000, when his care team told him he didn’t need to return unless he had experienced any lymphoma symptoms.
While the treatments were effective, Jack had bowel obstruction issues due to radiation scarring. Still, he wouldn’t change the positive outcome of his treatments. “I’m still surviving regardless of the effects,” he says. “I can do almost anything I want to do, so it was all worth it.”
Bobbie agrees. “He looks like the picture of health at 74,” she says. “His hair came back and everybody says how young he looks.”
Another generation comes to MD Anderson
Jack and Bobbie wish that were the end of their cancer story. Nearly 17 years after their youngest son died of brain cancer, their oldest son, Jack G. Brown, was diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma in Aug. 2016. The couple insisted he come to MD Anderson, and his daughter, Megan Smith, helped set up his first appointment.
“We all told him he didn’t have a choice,” Bobbie says of her son, who came to MD Anderson in Sept. 2016. Under the care of Nizar Tannir, M.D., he’s receiving radiation therapy and taking temsirolimus as part of a clinical trial.
When they visit MD Anderson now, the Browns contrast their previous visits with today’s technology. “They showed me the machine my son was getting radiation on, and it’s a lot more focused now. The treatments have really advanced,” Jack says.
Jack credits MD Anderson for saving his life. “I thought they did a wonderful job with me,” he says. “And I can tell you the staff that MD Anderson has today is still amazing.”
Bobbie adds, “I’m glad my husband Jack went there because, otherwise, I don’t think he would be here. Now I’m glad MD Anderson is here for my son.”
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