Charlayne Collins (right) with member of her health care team.
Charlayne Collins (right) with member of her health care team.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities in October, UTHealth was honored to co-host Harris Health System’s annual Celebration of Breast Cancer Survivors luncheon with Harris County Hospital District Foundation, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

Maria Luisa Falcon Rivera, a breast cancer survivor who received lifesaving treatment at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital; and her surgeon, Tamara Saunders, M.D., an assistant professor at McGovern Medical School; were among the speakers during the program on Friday, Oct. 28, at the Bayou City Event Center.

Rivera was working two jobs in December 2012 when she began experiencing pain in her left breast. After several tests, including a mammogram, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer and referred to LBJ Hospital. Her treatment plan included chemotherapy and surgery to remove her left breast and lymph nodes. Following chemotherapy and surgery at LBJ, she received radiation at Harris Health’s Smith Clinic.

At the luncheon, Rivera publicly thanked Saunders and others on her health care team and joined with hundreds of other breast cancer survivors in celebrating their victories over cancer.

“Everyone was so nice and so kind,” Rivera said of her health care team. “I’m cancer free now. They told me, `No more cancer for you.’”

Saunders said the No. 1 reason she works as a breast surgeon at LBJ Hospital is her patients. “I want to help each woman be happy with her appearance and feel whole again,” she said.