Zachary “Zach” Love, a native Houstonian and financial advisor, did what many bright young scholars with their futures ahead of them do. He left home for college, and after graduating from Harvard University and receiving his MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, he found success as a financial advisor and settled in Los Angeles. In 2017, his doctors found evidence of head and neck cancer. Zach and his husband made the decision to return to Zach’s hometown and seek treatment from the No. 1 cancer center in the nation. Under the care of Renata Ferrarotto, M.D., associate professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, Zach found strength deep within his own cancer journey.
It started when I felt a small bump on the upper back part of my mouth and immediately made an appointment with my dentist. She recommended I see an oral surgeon. I could not believe the surgeon’s reaction — a tumor? He did not believe it either. ‘I’m sure you’re fine,’ he said. ‘You’re young; it’s probably nothing.’ No, it definitely was something: adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer in my glands.
I knew I needed more information, perhaps a second opinion. As a native Houstonian and graduate of DeBakey High School for Health Professions, I knew MD Anderson was where I would get my answers. I requested an appointment and received confirmation for late August 2017, when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas.
MD Anderson still worked with me and my doctors in Los Angeles to chart the best path. They gave me the information and advice I needed to feel confident about moving forward with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Three months later, more unbelievable news — the cancer had metastasized to my spine.
After that, my husband, John, said, ‘That’s it; we’re moving back to Houston! Your life is too precious, and we need to be at MD Anderson.’ We relocated back home in 2018, and I began treatment. I experienced difficulties at first and endured a recurrence that spread along my spine and threatened my mobility. Eventually, I came under the care of Dr. Renata Ferrarotto. It was a great match, especially considering how well she communicates with me, engages me and recognizes the type of patient I am. I feel my health has improved because I have a doctor who understands me.
I believe patients with cancer have to be the quarterback in their process. My journey has spanned more than three years so far, and it has been exhausting. I practice self-care and remind myself that John and I have done a lot to put me in the best position to end my cancer. I am inspired by the work performed at MD Anderson and by Dr. Ferrarotto, and I hope and pray this year brings more improvement to my health.
Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.