Nearly 300 people gathered in September for MD Anderson's 29th annual myCancerConnection Cancer Survivorship Conference. With a variety of breakout sessions and presentations from MD Anderson experts and survivors alike, there were messages of hope and determination for everyone.
A highlight among attendees was an inspirational keynote address by Craig Melvin, co-anchor of NBC-TV's "Weekend Today," and his brother, Rev. Lawrence Meadows, a stage IV colorectal cancer survivor. While both spoke highly of MD Anderson and the treatment Meadows received, Melvin shared his shock at learning of his brother's diagnosis, considering Meadows' healthy lifestyle. Melvin developed a story about his brothers' cancer journey for the "Today" show and was gratified at the interest and positive feedback it generated as one of the top stories of 2017.
"There are many reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the cutting-edge cancer research at MD Anderson," says Melvin.
Benjamin Chang, 34, of Houston, attended the conference with his mother, Yvonne. Treated at MD Anderson in 2006 for a rare brain tumor, Chang was eager to hear the latest on cancer research and meet others with similar experiences. He is grateful to the MD Anderson volunteers who made him feel comfortable while he was a patient and now volunteers his time offering refreshments in the waiting rooms at Mays Clinic.
Gloria Ayala, 54, also of Houston, became an MD Anderson volunteer in 2005 and received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.
"I am grateful to MD Anderson," Ayala says. "The doctors and staff took care of me and made sure I had an amazing recovery. They inspired me to be a better volunteer."
Like most in attendance, Chang and Ayala spent time between sessions offering others advice and support. Many participants expressed appreciation to MD Anderson for offering the annual survivorship conference as a chance to connect and discover what's on the horizon in cancer research, patient care, prevention and education.
2017 Survivorship Conference. Photos by F. Carter Smith.
Brothers Lawrence Meadows, left, and Craig Melvin inspire the audience with a powerful keynote address.
Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., of Integrative Medicine Research, leads a plenary session.
The two-day conference is an annual tradition for survivors around the country.
MD Anderson's Tadd Pullin and Susan French congratulate Jason Cox as he accepts the Painter Award, which recognizes exceptional volunteers.