Breast cancer journey turns employee into advocate

Suzette Boese
Suzette Boese

Just about everyone has days in their life that strike a chord and bring what’s important into focus. A birthday. An anniversary. The birth of a child.

And for one employee at UT Southwestern Medical Center there’s a date – Dec. 15, 2010 – that hit the mark, and has ever since.

That’s the day that Suzette Boese, Senior Administrative Associate in the Department of Clinical Sciences, was diagnosed with breast cancer. With the unexpected news came issues to worry about and reasons to change.

“I re-evaluated my life, there’s no question about it,” she said. “I like to think that the opportunity for personal growth is not just a concept at UT Southwestern. That’s because I have lived it.”

Among the changes in Ms. Boese’s life, she has become: 

  • An advocate. As an individual and on her own time, she testified before a committee of the Texas Legislature in 2011, speaking up for Henda’s Law. The Legislature passed the act, which requires that mammography providers notify all women with dense breast tissue that the accuracy of their mammograms is less than that of women with lower breast density and that they may benefit from supplemental screening in addition to their annual mammogram.
  • An ardent volunteer. “I think my giving spirit increased,” Boese said, and it shows. She is a founding member of a choir whose members are breast cancer survivors, she supports Susan G. Komen North Texas, and she remains on call on campus to talk with newly diagnosed patients.
  • A runner. “I thought maybe I could stomp out cancer by running.”

Now six years out from two surgeries to clear the margins of the cancer and six weeks of radiation therapy, Ms. Boese is cancer-free and still moving on.

At UT Southwestern, Ms. Boese is also a Vice Chair of the Employee Advisory Council and a State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) Champion. As a Champion, she is the primary point of contact in her Department to promote the charitable campaign. Outside of work, she finds time to crew for a hot air balloon team.

Ms. Boese gives a lot of credit to former UTSW Associate Professor of Surgery Dr. Roshni Rao, now Chief of the Breast Surgery program at Columbia University Medical Center, calling her “my angel.” That’s because Dr. Rao took the time to see her on a day that she had no appointment scheduled and then stayed with her and brought in UT Southwestern’s Center for Breast Care team.

Ms. Boese has now become somewhat of an expert on the subject of dense breast tissue and other breast cancer issues.

“When I was diagnosed,” she said, “we were just coming out of the thinking that there were just two choices for breast cancer patients – mastectomy or attack the cancer with massive doses of drugs. My doctors showed me there are many options, and they helped me because they understood it can be overwhelming to make a decision.”