UAMS Breast Cancer Survivors Honored at Little Rock Trojans Pink Game

By Susan Van Dusen

“It’s scary, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Payne, a three-year survivor and access manager at UAMS.

Payne was one of four breast cancer survivors, along with hematologist oncologist Issam Makhoul, M.D., honored by the UALR women’s basketball team at their annual Pink Game on Feb. 15.

The survivors and Makhoul were introduced and presented bouquets of pink roses before joining the Little Rock Trojans on the court for the national anthem prior to their game against the University of Texas at Arlington.

national anthem at basketball game

UAMS breast cancer survivors joined the Little Rock Trojans women’s basketball on the court for the national anthem.

They were recognized again during a timeout and each received a basketball autographed by the team members.

Diagnosed in 2018, cancer research nurse Cindy Jones said she would not consider undergoing treatment anywhere but the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

“The Cancer Institute is a family. It’s organized, patient-centered and the best place to go,” she said, adding that she thinks it’s important for people to see survivors who are healthy and thriving.

“I think it’s important to show that breast cancer can be survivable. It actually made me a stronger person,” she said.

Donning a pink necktie in honor of the survivors, Makhoul shared hugs and words of encouragement with the women during the game.

“It’s always an honor to be with our survivors and their families. It’s so important to have a support system when you are dealing with an illness like breast cancer. It’s very special to join them here today and recognize the challenges they have overcome,” said Makhoul, professor and director of the Division of Medical Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

UALR basketball game timeout

The survivors and Issam Makhoul, M.D., were presented autographed basketballs during a timeout.

Each of the survivors were current or former UAMS employees and were treated at the UAMS Cancer Institute.

Former employee Laurie Shell said she was in the right place at the right time when she was diagnosed 10 years ago.

“Since I worked at UAMS, I knew the doctors and felt comfortable with them. I always felt like I was a priority with them, although I know they treat all their patients that way,” she said.

UALR alumna Teletha Leonard was happy to return to her alma mater and share the afternoon with her fellow survivors.

“I’m happy to do anything to raise awareness and let people know that a breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean your life is over,” said Leonard, senior HR director for benefits and employees services at UAMS. “You can make it.”

This is the third year the Little Rock Trojans have honored UAMS breast cancer survivors at their annual Pink Game.