Battle with breast cancer proves to be defining moment for HCC professor

Oct 26, 2016

Houston Community College (HCC) Faculty Associate Chair of Government, Mary Louis never thought the word cancer would become part of her vocabulary.

“I was a vegan. I ran and did everything I was supposed to do to stay healthy,” said the professor.

Like millions of women, Louis heard about efforts to raise funds and find a cure to eradicate the deadly disease that, according to the American Cancer Society, kills more than 40,000 women every year.

Having no history of cancer in her family, she was shocked when, in October 2013, after a regular health check-up, doctors detected a mass on her right breast.

“I had a lump,” she recalled. “The doctor said that it was just a cyst and told me not to worry about it.”

Unfortunately, the lump grew and exactly one year later, doctors confirmed her worst fear.

“After a biopsy, it was revealed to me that I had cancer,” said Louis. “It was time to start the process and make arrangements for the surgery and the subsequent treatment. I began the decision-making process to define how I was going to proceed.”

The road to recovery included a double mastectomy followed by two rounds of chemotherapy.

“I lost my hair; I lost my eyebrows and my eyelashes. I don’t think I am vain person but when your eyelashes go, it is a big blow to your ego,” said Louis as she recalled how insignificant things all the sudden became meaningful.

Two years after her ordeal, Mary Louis’ journey as a cancer survivor has given her a renewed sense of purpose. Happy to be able to teach full-time, exercise, and enjoy life, she doesn’t miss the opportunity spread the word about the importance of yearly mammograms.

“I hesitate to use the word cancer free because you are as good as your last check-up.”

Now she encourages every woman, especially her HCC colleagues, to get screened.

HCC will have Mammosafe, a mammogram mobile screening unit, parked at the West Loop Campus from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., Tuesday, November 1.

To schedule online, please visit or call 832.977.7213.

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