MD Anderson has been a part of Len Turpin’s family for generations. In the 1960s, his paternal great-grandmother was successfully treated here for ovarian cancer, and in the early 1980s, his father was successfully treated here for melanoma.
“MD Anderson is an amazing institution,” says Len, who was just 11 when his father was diagnosed. “It really makes a difference in people’s lives.”
A melanoma diagnosis
Len’s father, Kenneth Turpin, came to MD Anderson in Sept. 1981, after discovering a swollen lymph node under his right arm. He was diagnosed with stage III melanoma by the late Charles M. McBride, M.D. Its source was a birthmark on Kenneth’s right upper arm. Ironically, the mole had been examined regularly and deemed non-cancerous for years.
“He’d had that mole all his life and it never gave him any trouble,” Len says. “But right before Dad was diagnosed, it suddenly ‘bleached out.’ Then he found the swollen lymph node, which turned out to be a tumor the size of a large lemon.”
An early immunotherapy clinical trial
Len’s father had the tumor removed at a hospital near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He came to MD Anderson for additional treatment, and had surgery here to remove another 16 lymph nodes on the right side of his body. He also participated in an immunotherapy clinical trial for something called “MER therapy” (or methanol extraction residue of bacillus Calmette-Guerin). Patients are still being treated with a related drug today.
“It was a pretty rough experience,” Len adds. “And there was a point when we didn’t know if Dad was going to make it. But he’s showed no evidence of disease since 1982, and he’s still going strong 35 years later.”
Melanoma diagnosis leads to better sun safety
Kenneth’s melanoma diagnosis made a deep impression on his family. In particular, it’s spurred them to make smarter choices when it comes to sun exposure, which can increase the risk for melanoma.
“To this day, Mom asks me if I’ve got my sunscreen on,” Len admits. “And the kids get slathered down anytime they go anywhere. It’s definitely a lifestyle change.”
Still, he doesn’t mind. Len’s just grateful that his father has lived long enough to meet his own kids, the youngest of whom is only four months old.
“Our daughter Sage was born on March 9,” Len says. “If it hadn’t been for MD Anderson, Dad wouldn’t have been here to see her.”
‘A big part of our lives’
That’s why the Operations Manager at Topgolf Spring is excited that his company is supporting MD Anderson’s programs and cancer research.
During the month of July, guests can join Topgolf in raising funds to end cancer. By making a minimum $5 donation, guests will receive a $10 off game play coupon, valid for use on a Monday-Thursday return visit to Topgolf. You can donate at any of Topgolf's 30 venues upon check-in, or visit www.mdanderson.org/Topgolf to donate. All funds raised through the Topgolf End Cancer Campaign will support programs and research in the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship at MD Anderson, which aims to better understand the connection between a healthy lifestyle and cancer.
“I am really happy to see this partnership,” Len says. “MD Anderson has been such a big part of our lives. I can’t remember doctors I’ve seen myself in the last few years, but I’ll always remember Dr. McBride. He was like a member of our family.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.