Two-time breast cancer survivor is grateful for treatment innovations

When Suzanne Callahan first came to MD Anderson in 1997, she was a terrified 38-year-old mother with stage IIIB breast cancer in her left breast. Now, 20 years later, she’s a confident grandmother and two-time survivor. “I wanted to do everything I could to extend my life,” Suzanne says. Her mother died of breast cancer in 1985 at age 68. So when she received her own diagnosis that first time, Suzanne knew every year with her boys, then ages 5 and 9, would be precious. She made an appointment at MD Anderson and was on a plane from Arkansas to Houston within four days. “I wanted desperately to go to a physician who sees and treats people like me all day, every day,” she says.    “Living” during aggressive breast cancer treatments At her first appointment, Suzanne met oncologist James Murray, M.D., and surgeon Kelly Hunt, M.D. Her 7-cm breast cancer tumor was a subtype now known as triple-negative. It’s among the most difficult breast cancers to treat. “Back then, we had limited treatment options for such a large tumor,” Hunt says. Suzanne also had over 20 cancerous lymph nodes. Suzanne had chemotherapy in July 1997, a mastectomy of her left breast in October and then more chemotherapy. The junior high choir director often flew to Houston for 36-hour chemotherapy infusions and back home without missing a day of school. “People in Arkansas thought I was crazy for traveling so far for treatments,” Suzanne says. “But for me, traveling for the best care wasn’t a difficult decision.” “I didn’t spend time dying, I spent time living,” says Suzanne, who...