Bond built during breast cancer treatment inspires survivor to volunteer

It had been two years since Billa Woollam’s last mammogram, and she knew she was long overdue for one. But it was a strange sensation in her breast that sent her rushing into a clinic for a breast exam in November 2015. The following morning, she was asked to return for a biopsy. “My doctor’s office called and said I needed to be there within 30 minutes,” Billa recalls. “I knew they weren’t going to do that if there was nothing wrong with me.” A breast cancer diagnosis Billa had stage I breast cancer. The day after her diagnosis, she called MD Anderson. Within a week, she was at MD Anderson in Katy — just minutes from her home — to meet her radiation oncologist Elizabeth Bloom, M.D., and medical oncologist Nikesh Jasani, M.D. After discussing her treatment options, she opted for a lumpectomy, a less invasive surgery where doctors remove only the tumor and a small margin of healthy breast tissue. A special bond with her radiation therapy care team Billa had her lumpectomy on Dec. 8, 2015, and started 20 rounds of radiation therapy few weeks later. The first time she walked into the radiation room, she jokingly asked her radiation technicians to pin a photo of Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt on the ceiling to distract her during treatment. “From that moment on, they knew they could joke with me, and we had a fine time enjoying ourselves while I was having my radiation,” says Billa, who found the exchange of jokes eased her through each session. “We found a reason to laugh during most...