Sallianne Acosta has a family history of breast cancer, so she began getting annual mammograms in 1998 at the age of 33 — the same year she married her husband, Rene. Over the years, routine screenings found several masses, but each was benign. In 2002, she and Rene welcomed twin girls and enjoyed a happy life together.
But, in early 2022, after undergoing a mammogram at the Jim and Eleanor Randall Breast Center, Sallianne got the call she dreaded most. She had breast cancer. Thankfully, the cancer was contained to the milk ducts of her right breast and had not yet spread.
Sallianne was referred to Jeannie Shen, MD, regional medical director of the breast program and international health at Huntington Cancer Center, an affiliate of Cedars-Sinai Cancer, who performed surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from Sallianne’s breast. The successful surgery was followed by radiation therapy under the guidance of Ramona Kyaw, MD.
“The advanced technology they use for radiation is mind-blowing, but the atmosphere is spa-like and peaceful,” says Sallianne. “I knew I would be safe, and that played into my healing.” After she finished radiation therapy, Sallianne was seen by hematologist Dorcus Chi, MD, who put her on medication to help ensure her cancer does not return. She continues getting regular mammograms and advocates that other women should do the same.
Throughout Sallianne’s cancer journey, she notes that one of our nurse navigators, Alex Davis, RN, was there to support her every step of the way. “Alex is the kindest and most professional woman I’ve ever met,” says Sallianne. “She provided personal care and always thoughtfully explained what was going to happen next.”
Alex also introduced Sallianne to the many resources and supportive services that we offer for cancer patients. This included acupuncture and our Mind-Body programs, which helped her cope with the stress of the disease through therapeutic meditation — all while connecting and learning from others on the same journey. “It’s a safe space to talk about the scary part of having cancer,” says Sallianne.
Today, Sallianne is delighted and relieved to be cancer free, thanks to Huntington Cancer Center. She recalls the long days of radiation therapy and is glad to be able to get back to her life. “I notice I sing and laugh out loud more now,” she says. She is most thankful to still be here with her family, including her daughters, who are now seniors in college. “I live my life for them,” says Sallianne. “They are my everything.”
“If sharing my story helps someone and makes them feel a little less scared, I’m all for it,” she says. “It lights me up to spread hope and help others.”