Why chemotherapy cheerleader? 


 Since the time I started practicing as a kid’s cancer doctor (pediatric oncologist for those of you that prefer that I use the proper terms) I often have described myself as a chemotherapy cheerleader.  It took 15 years of medical training post collage in order to become junior faculty at a large academic medical school/hospital in Texas.  Interestingly, the most important part of my job, turned out to be the part that was deemphasized in training.   That is the chemotherapy cheerleader part. 


Incase you have never experienced getting chemotherapy or cancer fighting toxic medicine it SUCKS.  (Trust me here…not only have I prescribed a good bit of it but I also experienced it first-hand in my own victorious battle against cancer …more on that later.)  Right when you are dealing with side effects… relentless nausea, puking, pain, hair falling out, sleepiness, feeling crappy and this list goes on; you need to harness all your mental powers to focus on destroying this cancer.   But what is GREAT about chemotherapy is that it CURES many many cancers everyday so that people like me and you can go back to our everyday lives and LIVE!!!  So I ask again, what is a chemotherapy cheerleader?  The persons who cheers and advocates for us during our treatment battle.  This is the person who strategizes with you on how to deal various ups and downs both physical and mental.  A chemotherapy cheerleader is at your side during your journey, and can clearly picture the day that you can toast to your own victories. 




Why I want to start this website? 


Since my own battle with cancer, I have often been contacted by people going through cancer therapy for advice.   From how to deal with long hospitalizations, to communicating with children about illness, my advice seems to be welcomed and appreciated and I am grateful to provide any insight where I can.  My experience with cancer gave me insight into the adult oncology world.   It can be a different world then the pediatric oncology world, a subject I hope to explore further in posts.  I brought many of the techniques I saw parents and children using for dealing with cancer to my own adult experience.   I realized children can provide a lot of inspiration and creativity to coping and tackling problems. 


 It can be overwhelming for folks to navigate this treatment and there are many different challenges.   I hope my unique prospective can provide a little bit of insight, support, advocacy, and love to you no matter if you’re a patient, a family member, a friend, or a healthcare professional.  I hope that my posts will focus on different aspects and relate to various audiences whilst maintaining a level of exploration and interest for all involved.  Timing is also right for starting this website since as much I love being a pediatric oncologist, I am currently taking a break from practicing and I am having an adventure living in Doha Qatar.  We moved here for my husband’s job.  (Only to move back to Texas single again, a little too many changes for the start of a partnership.)  The part of medicine I miss more then intellectual challenge of diagnosis, making treatment plans, etc….is just the everyday interaction with patients and families and yes, being a chemotherapy cheerleader.  



My cancer story:  


 In October of 2009 at age 36,  I had just finished with my training for a little over a year and was Assistant Professor (and board certified) in Pediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant at a large children’s hospital in Houston Texas.   I  worked as both a clinical physician and cancer biology researcher.  At the time, I was an avid gym goer, mostly ate a healthy vegetarian diet, and had never tried a cigarette.  I worked long hours, played longer hours (blues dancing is a major passion!) with very little symptoms of the diagnosis to come.    I went to a neurologist for a funny feeling in my hands and feet.   The next day this neurologist was driving in the car with his wife and dreading phoning me to tell me I had multiple tumors.   Luckily I was at work when he called and surrounded by oncologists.  Over the next few days I got my work up and then left for a vacation in Hawaii before returning to be admitted to the hospital.  An admission that with just a handful of occasional breaks would last for almost a year and half of for multiple rounds of intense chemotherapy and a surgery to remove my adrenal gland encased in tumor.  There would be a second surgery to remove approximately 2/3 of my liver that was studded with multiple tumors, and lastly radiations probes into my spine another location of the spread of my cancer.   Over this course there were many complications and other treatments.  Many times I was given just months to live.  My diagnosis was stage 4 adrenalcortical carcinoma (ACC) and if you looked at the history of 100 patients with this disease less then 10 are long term survivors, but I knew I was not 100 patients but just ONE so with that there was always hope.   What got me through is an amazing group or friends and family and an amazing medical team led by my very supportive oncologist.  Over the treatment process, I had less supportive experiences, like a second opinion at one of the largest cancer hospitals in the US.  They told me to stop treatment and go to hospice, but as someone who understood cancer and myself, I was confident to reject this advice.  I continued my intense treatment plan and now I have been in full remission (yes, NO CANCER) for just over 3 years and counting!

Sending everyone strength and love.

Dr. Jess


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31 Responses

  1. Audrey Bleich
    Audrey Bleich June 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm | | Reply

    Congratulations Jessica on this new blog which is a true inspration for all of those directly or indirectly affected by cancer. Your efforts will definitely leave their mark. lots of love, Audrey Barcelona Spain

  2. Ann
    Ann June 20, 2013 at 9:12 pm | | Reply

    Your story is an inspiration to anyone who had or does have cancer, or anyone who knows anyone who had or does have cancer. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. Millie
    Millie June 21, 2013 at 12:56 am | | Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful blog – I’m sure that everyone who has cancer or a loved one will want to be aware of your story . I’m so glad I received your notification about this new endeavor…You are a gifted writer ….Thanks so much….looking forward to more updates…..

  4. Merideth Geers
    Merideth Geers June 21, 2013 at 1:32 am | | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. It does offer hope. My son was diagnosed with Stage II ACC last year. So far, after RT (radiation therapy) he has had two CT Scans with NED (No Evidence of Disease). Still very nervous waiting for those reports after the Scans….as we have been told that if his ACC returns it will be fatal. He has chosen not to do chemotherapy with Mitotane at this point.
    Thanks again for the inspiration and hope.
    Merideth in NY

  5. Claire Cruz
    Claire Cruz June 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm | | Reply

    Hi Jessica – Glad to see your website up and running. It is so inspirational. I think about you every time I go to Baylor and hope to be the next success story to fight ACC and go NED one day!!!


  6. Derek Gilboe
    Derek Gilboe July 1, 2013 at 9:27 am | | Reply


    You are amazing in so many ways and I hope many will see your blog. The person you are now is a very different person than the one I met before your diagnosis; your “second life” is where you fully blossomed and emerged the person you were meant to be. I have no greater hope than than the hope you provide through this blog will reach many, including those not affected by cancer. You are a light of hope!!

  7. Raziya
    Raziya July 4, 2013 at 2:46 am | | Reply


    I’m so glad you got around to writing about your experience and sharing your strength and resilience through your story. I’m inspired by you!


  8. Randy
    Randy July 4, 2013 at 6:12 am | | Reply

    Jess, I’ve only recently heard of your life changing events and very difficult trying times, I have full confidence you will make it through. You are one of those who have strength, who have perseverance, willing to face any challenge at hand. One who truly loves live and who wants to help others, and that’s a great thing. You know? I’m amazed at how much you’ve been through and your continued forward march regardless of any obstacles and changes life brings. Many are reading your words and can see the hope within you, so know that you are making a difference, which is all that anyone can hope for in these moments.’What lies behind us and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

  9. susan shafer
    susan shafer July 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm | | Reply

    Dear Jess, I am so proud of you as you will be making an even greater impact on those affected with cancer. Fear and terror is evoked by the word even as if you are an oncologist. But your spirit and determination will be an inspiration for all, even a mother. Keep the luck cats coming.

  10. Farrah
    Farrah July 9, 2013 at 9:03 am | | Reply

    You and your website – along with your compassion and mission to inform and inspire – are all a blessing. Amazing blog, Jessica.

  11. James
    James July 20, 2013 at 4:34 am | | Reply

    What an inspiring story… I hope you are up for becoming a full time blogger, I think your blog will be extremely popular!

  12. Trebie
    Trebie August 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm | | Reply

    Dr Jess, Your blog is so inspiring & helpful to patients like me who are in the midst of this fight againt ACC.I keep coming back to your story & refuse to ever have a negative day.I’ve just finished Round 5 of IP protocol in Houston w/positive “stable” results..Thank you for being there !

  13. Mary
    Mary October 26, 2013 at 2:31 am | | Reply

    Dear Dr. Jess,
    Thank you so much for your blog. My daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 ACC on June 28, 2013. She has had 3 rounds of chemo, takes Mitotane and just had her tumor, adrenal gland, some lymph glands and a small section of her diaphram removed and rebuilt at USC. We are hoping that she comes home this weekend, once the pain in under control. The pulmonologist has suggested that her right lung be removed which would leave about 1% of the cancer to fight. We were so thankful that USC’s Dr. Schuckman agreed to do the surgery. She has been amazing. The first surgeon told my daughter that he wouldn’t do the surgery and that she had a year. He just told her to put her big girl panties on and prepare herself. Thank God that Dr. Schuckman has said that my daughter is young and that it is worth her fight. She’s given us hope. When my daughter gets out of the hospital, I’m going to show her your blog. She’s fighting and needs to know that you have fought and it is important to remain positive and filled with hope. Thank you sweet guardian angel, Dr. Jess. My prayers are with you and your continued journey of hope and joy.

  14. Mary
    Mary February 25, 2015 at 7:58 pm | | Reply

    So wonderful to read about your cure. I am a friend of Celia P’s (a coworker). My sisterdied of adrenal cancer in 1977. By the time she was diagnosed it was really too late, although she was subjected to some really horrible chemo. She lives 18 months from diagnosis to death, but it was really awful, she was so sick all of the time. I am so glad that there is now some hope for this disease, that new research and new regimens are being used. Keep up the blog!

  15. Bridget
    Bridget June 13, 2016 at 9:56 pm | | Reply

    Just wondering if this blog is still active and how Dr Jess has been feeling?? I was diagnosed with bilateral adrenal adenomas last year. I looked back at an old CT scan and apparently one was on there 5 years ago and the er doc neglected to inform me. Must have been an insignificant finding. Well it has grown and now there is another on the left one. The right one is larger measuring 2.4cm. The doctors don’t seem concerned. I read on many websites that bilateral adenomas are more of a chance being malignant. I have a history of thyroid cancer and in reading about ACC, I don’t want to wait and see and then end up in a bad situation. The doctors seem to think this is the best route, stating that adrenal tumors are extremely common. Has anyone being originally diagnosed with adenomas and then they end up being ACC?? Thank u in advance

  16. Keith
    Keith July 12, 2016 at 11:46 pm | | Reply

    Bridget, I can tell you that I just found out that my mom was just diagnosed with Stage 4 ACC yesterday and now I am on a path to educate myself while a treatment plan is being put into place. My mom was diagnosed with Stage 1B Lung Cancer Oct 2015. At that time they saw many tumors on the CT but nothing ‘lit up’ and they said it was common for adrenal glands to have tumors. They noted they would monitor/watch. Then after 5 months during a CT Scan checkup they found one that grew very quickly so she had it biopsied and it was cancer. They are calling it stage 4 as they noted it was from the lung but I have a ton of questions that I am awaiting to get answered as her lung cancer did an EBUS test that samples several lymph nodes between the 2 lungs and no cancer was detected which reduced her lung cancer from stage 4 to stage 1B. I am less certain if they did any genetic mapping of the tumor to know it was from the lung or not. So I would say that yes they can turn into cancer, but just not sure the likelihood or if it literally is a watch/monitor like they did for my mom. I am praying it isn’t too late for my mom as the Stage 4 statistics are dismal.

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