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When I recently went to the Texas Medical Center campus for my interview with Dr. DePinho, I realized it had been over twenty five years since my last visit to MD Anderson. My prior trip there was a somber one. My then 30 year old big brother, who was dying of chronic myeloid leukemia, needed to come from Nashville to Houston and visit MD Anderson. His doctors at Vanderbilt told him he had two maybe three years to live. Myself, my sister, and my brother’s best friend convinced him to make the journey.

Based on our research a doctor at MD Anderson, Dr. Hagop Kantarjian was doing some great work in leukemia care and research. He was pioneering a relatively new field using interferon, which was a possibility for treatment, but not necessarily a cure. I was proud to help my older brother in my hometown and with with my eternally optimistic outlook, I was certain we had come to the right place. That is until I noticed the fact that our doctor looked as young as we were. As we listened to his diagnosis which confirmed his disease, I still felt we were in good hands. As he spoke, he mentioned nothing about his area of expertise, but only that of a doctor named Peter Tutschka and his understudy Dr. Andrew Copelan of Ohio State University. He stated simply that this doctor was “talking to God” and having incredible success in curing leukemia patients with bone marrow transplants and we should go there immediately. What doctor says or does that? Off we went to Columbus, where my brother would spend the next year or so. Our family has never forgotten the honest and life saving advice from our visit to MD Anderson in Houston. Since the bone marrow transplant with my brother it has been 25 years and he is still cancer free. Dr.Kantarjian is now in charge of the leukemia department at MD Anderson.

Lessons to be learned. Don’t always believe what you see and hear and always get a second or maybe third opinion.

To all cancer patients, the great doctors, nurses and hospital employees here’s to you and celebrating these holidays and a New Year.

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