As the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for the Houston Dynamo, Dash, and BBVA Stadium, I am very much aware of all the wonderful initiatives that our partners at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have in place to help end cancer. However, it was not my profession that really opened my eyes to the incredible work being done at the world’s premier center for cancer research and treatment, but something much more personal.
On this National Cancer Survivors Day, I want to personally thank all the healthcare workers at MD Anderson for the tireless efforts they give day in and day out, not only to their patients, but to their patients’ loved ones as well. They did so for me and my family when my mother, Leticia Valenzuela, was treated from 2012 until her triumphant victory in 2019.
On April 9, 2012, my mother was taken to the emergency room for what was suspected to be gallbladder stones, something that can usually be dealt with by an outpatient surgery. Unfortunately, results of a screening came back with news that no one was expecting. We found out my mother had stage III gallbladder cancer and her lymph nodes had been affected.
When we received the life-altering news, my brother-in-law Tommy Moody had worked at MD Anderson in the Mays Clinic as a clinical research investigator for over ten years. My sister, Karla Moody, also worked there during the early stages of her career. With their inside knowledge of the facility and the incredible staff, there was no hesitation to reach out to the best cancer institution in the world for help in the next steps of the process.
Three days later, on April 12, 2012, my mother was officially admitted to MD Anderson for a surgical procedure, and that is when the real battle began. The operation was set to remove portions of her liver and lymph nodes. Her treatment also required chemotherapy and radiation post-surgery. Later that year, we were told that the cancer had progressed to stage IV.
I am proud to say that in 2019, my mother came out of a scheduled scan with no evidence of the disease she had battled for seven years, and now beaten. All of the nausea, pain, hair loss, struggles to recover, financial burdens, and emotional toll the battle took on our entire family seemed to suddenly disappear.
I honestly cannot say enough kind words about the professionals at MD Anderson who always made our difficult situation a little bit easier with their smiles, accommodations, and dignity. Throughout the process, even at its worst, they did not only care for my mother as a patient, but cared for my family in the waiting room as well. Whether it was something as simple as providing us with blankets or coffee, to bringing out puzzles for us to work on, or even establishing “quiet” work areas, the staff truly went above and beyond every chance they could.
At one point, when things looked like they had taken a turn for the worse, we did not even know if my mother was going to make it through the night. However, eight years later, we are all still together and enjoying her company, her laughter, and her smile that can light up any room. Simply put, because of my mom’s strength and the wonderful staff at MD Anderson who were with her every step of the way, we get to enjoy her the way she has been for as long as I can remember, FULL OF LIFE.