People ask me how I got started on my present course of patient advocacy—I have to tell them: it’s complicated. In fact, if someone would have told me many years ago that I’d become a medical video writer/producer in the Texas Medical Center, I would have laughed and thought they were crazy. After all, my intention when I studied video production in graduate school was to work around Silicon Valley types in Central Texas—standing around nice clean computer rooms. Then life turned upside down and I found myself back home in Houston, looking for video production work. A friend called to say I should consider coming down to the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston to work on a drug abuse prevention video project. How easy could that be? The entire project would consist of encouraging people to embrace a healthy lifestyle and to avoid addictions? Just say “yes”!
At the end of that project, a medical writer/producer job became available nearby at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center video department. Once again, it was all about education and just involved scriptwriting then producing videos at the request of the faculty and staff there. Seems easy, right? And with M.D. Anderson being such a welcoming place, I gladly accepted.
Once on board, I began to realize that a large portion of my job was to sit in many meetings with doctors and researchers. I didn’t speak “doctor”, so I pulled all-nighters, studying up on medical terminology and procedures so that I would be totally prepared for all these meetings. Except once I deciphered the technical language, I realized the plain English translation of my first video project would be “how to correctly obtain colon biopsies” for a researcher’s video? I was far, far away from the original computer clean rooms where I had envisioned working once upon a time. Yet, after I spent time in the colonoscopy suites researching this video, I began to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the human body, both inside and out.
After that first project, my director and I went all over M. D. Anderson with our cameras, documenting all sorts of medical marvels as well as human interest stories. I loved the patient education part of my job, especially working on the chemotherapy and radiotherapy videos, doing our best to empower people coming to Anderson with the knowledge they needed to make their treatments as successful as possible. It became an exciting challenge to try to relay the complexities of medical information to people outside the medical field to give them the understanding of their diagnosis that would help them gain control of their lives again.
Then just as I was beginning to feel comfortable that I could help communicate the various aspects of how M.D. Anderson was changing the world of cancer care, my life was about to take another twist on my winding journey to becoming a patient advocate.
To find out the next step on my journey to patient advocacy, tune in in 2 weeks as my story continues….