The Mask of a Fighter

Doris’ story started ten years ago when she went for her annual mammogram

Published 10/26/2020

Doris Houston doesn’t share her breast cancer story with everyone. As a certified mastectomy fitter, “I am there and when it’s appropriate I offer words of wisdom, support, or hug, or an elbow bump right now. It really is their story when they come in.”

Doris’ own story started ten years ago when she went for her annual mammogram, which she started early after losing her mom to breast cancer in 1988. “They detected something, did a biopsy, and told me to wait six months.  It was a very stressful six months. I knew when I went back for another biopsy with a surgeon that it would come back as cancer.”  At the time, her son was only 11 and her daughter was seven. 

“The first thing you do is break down and cry, but the first think I decided to do is just start fighting immediately.”  And she wants other women to know they have the fight in them too. Doris has put her sewing skills to work (her mom taught her how to sew), making thousands of face coverings for women. She has donated 1,500 to the community, including CMC’s Breast Care Center

“In my mind they were just face coverings, but Dr. (Jessica) Ryan said they did a world of good.” The designs incorporate grays and pinks and they all have a pink ribbon decal that can be removed, because “As a survivor I know there are women who will wear pink from head to toe but there are many others like me who will share when they feel like sharing.”  Each wrapped mask contains a message of support, as well:  “My fellow pink sister, be strong, be determined, be safe. Celebrate your pink!”

“When someone carries the title of breast cancer survivor, not all days come easy,” says Dr. Jessica Ryan, Medical Director of the Breast Care Center.  “When we’ve shared Doris’ mask and heartfelt message it really lights up their face, makes them feel special and reassures them that they are not alone.  I love that Doris is able to celebrate this wonderful 10 year milestone in such a beautiful way.”

Doris will end her ten-year medication plan in January, officially ending her breast cancer treatment and cementing her title of “Survivor.” But, she says, that club is a big one, where every woman who’s faced a diagnosis belongs.  “Whether you’re day one into your diagnosis, you’re already fighting. You’re already a survivor.”