I thought I knew about MD Anderson and its mission to end cancer. But until I became one of the treated, I realized I knew people who were patients there, but I didn’t really know much about the institution and the qualities that set it apart.
In late September 2009, I was diagnosed with a large tumor on my left kidney. In my urologist’s words, these tumors are “almost always malignant” and no matter what, it had to come out. My wife, Kathryn, at the urging of a dear friend, insisted that we see if “they” would look at my case at MD Anderson.
“They” did accept me as a patient. That was more than five years ago, and I remain a renal cell carcinoma survivor. I’m not cured, but my prognosis remains excellent due to the exceptional care I have received and continue to receive at MD Anderson. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr. Chris Wood and his talented team of surgeons, who excised my volleyball-sized tumor; Dr. Ara Vaporciyan, who removed some of the renal cell lesions from my left lung; Dr. Patrick Hwu and his IL-2 team; and now, my wonderful oncologist and friend, Dr. Nizar Tannir and the entire team of genitourinary oncologists, who lead the way in renal cell and other genitourinary cancer research.
Getting to know you
For me, however, the most amazing part of my story hasn’t been the exceptional treatment, but rather the unique opportunity to get to know this huge, living, breathing institution known as MD Anderson. It’s become the most meaningful and unbelievable experience in my life: having the privilege to understand more about MD Anderson’s mission and to interact with this huge family of caring employees, almost 20,000 team members who share the common goal of lifting the lives and spirits of its thousands of patients and their families.
I’ve been amazed at the heartfelt care and compassion put forth by each one of these professionals. I sincerely mean that every team member is a professional, no matter his or her role. The very core of their mission is to be professional and caring in every sense of the words and to make our visits and treatment the best that they can be.
My cancer has never made me feel sick. My surgeries, the IL-2 treatment and the drug I’m now taking haven’t been fun. But when I look at so many fellow patients and survivors who are coping with much worse, I’m reminded of just how lucky I am. It’s truly been a life-changing event for me.
MD Anderson has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for those who’ve been stricken with that six-letter word that no one ever wants to hear. Hundreds of thousands of us are still alive, leading hopeful lives because of this wonderful institution and its doctors, nurses and researchers. There’s an effervescent hope that we’ll one day conquer this dreaded disease. I’m thankful to those who came before us and had the vision and foresight to establish MD Anderson in 1941 and to those who continue to make MD Anderson the exceptional place that it is.