Early Detection Saves Lives CHRISTUS Southeast Texas St. Mary Medical Technologist Cindy Derouen witnessed the power of being proactive when she was diagnosed with breast cancer

Cindy (center with pink boa) and other breast cancer survivors at the 2015 CHRISTUS LiveWell Women’s Conference.


Cindy was 51 years old when she received the news that she had stage 2B invasive lobular carcinoma, a form of cancer affecting the milk producing glands in the breast. The first clue that something was wrong was found in December 2011. Cindy, who has received annual mammograms since she was 40 years old, remembers the day her radiologist discovered asymmetry between her two breasts. Further investigation through ultrasound revealed that Cindy had two tumors. And a follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test pinpointed a malignant mass in Cindy’s left breast and a benign tumor that she had been aware of for years.

“Ironically, the cancerous lump was discovered when the radiologist was investigating that benign lump,” Cindy says. “It was a perfect example of why being proactive about your breast health is so important. Had I not kept up with my personal health, I would have been caught completely off guard.”

Compassionate Solutions

Cindy knew she was in good hands when she left the biopsy room and was immediately connected with Breast Health Navigator Billie Loncon. “I had never met her, but she felt like a trusted friend from the very beginning,” Cindy says. “She listened, let me cry and shared positive words of encouragement that I treasure today. I am so grateful to have her guiding me through the journey.” Her general surgeon performed a double mastectomy in March of 2012. Additionally, the healthcare team removed four of Cindy’s lymph nodes to stop the cancer from spreading and conducted Oncotype DX genomic testing. They determined that the likelihood of the cancer recurring was low, so chemotherapy was not necessary.

“I am so thankful for my physicians, nurses and caregivers. There is no history of breast cancer in my family, and I had no risk factors other than being overweight. Early detection saved my life,” Cindy says. “A special thanks goes out to my oncologist, Robert Birdwell, M.D., from Texas Oncology. He is a fantastic doctor, and the staff there is very patient and compassionate to his patients. I would also like to thank Thomas Molina, M.D., laboratory medical director at CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System, for his wealth of knowledge, compassion,encouragement and patience as he explained the details of my pathology reports. I am especially grateful for the compassionate bear hug I received from Dr. Molina after hearing my diagnosis of cancer. He knew I needed that.” Cindy says she is now feeling good and plans to have breast reconstruction surgery.