When I was 3 and a half, I developed a fever and started bruising easily while at Disney World with my family. My mom, a nurse at MD Anderson, was worried I had leukemia. We left Florida the next day for Houston. I was referred to MD Anderson and diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). In June 1981, I began chemotherapy on a protocol called ALinC12. After two and a half years, I went into complete remission.
I remember going to the pediatric clinic every week or so to see Dr. Frankel. We played a game of “hide the Kleenex in the exam room.” Dr. Frankel would not start my exam until he had found the “hidden” Kleenex. Dr. Frankel always followed the rules of our game, but now kids have iPads and video games for distraction, so it isn’t the same.
After my chemotherapy, I was healthy enough to go overseas to live in Scotland and Singapore, but I came back to MD Anderson for checkups, even after I went to college. I was fortunate that I was completely healthy after it was all over. I had the opportunity to play baseball for the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs on a scholarship and earned First Team All-Conference honors my senior year.
Having ALL at such a young age taught me not to take anything for granted. It also taught me not to worry about what you can’t control. And my dad says it taught me to fight hard and be tough.
Life goes on. I’ve been happily married for 10 years to my wife, Jennifer, and we’ve been blessed with four little boys who keep life exciting.
I was fortunate to live in Houston with the world’s leading cancer treatment center in my hometown. I had lots of support from the staff at MD Anderson, but especially from my ‘Aunt’ Mary Beth Rios, who is still there, 33 years later, working as a research nurse manager.
My grandmother, grandfather and father have had cancer, and all have been treated at MD Anderson. We’re grateful to be part of the legacy of “Making Cancer History®.”
Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email Promise@mdanderson.org.