Fighting – and Beating – Breast Cancer, One Step at a Time: Susie Eisenberg-Argo

Dr. Bushra Cheema, Dr. Sandra Templeton, Susie Eisenberg-Argo and Dr. Clive Shkedy.Photography by Nesossi Studios.

Dr. Bushra Cheema, Dr. Sandra Templeton, Susie Eisenberg-Argo and Dr. Clive Shkedy.
Photography by Nesossi Studios.

By M.G. Angulo  – Photos by Nesossi Studios –

Dr. Sandra Templeton.

Dr. Sandra Templeton.

Susie Eisenberg-Argo knows all about journeys. As an accomplished marathon runner, Eisenberg-Argo is well-versed in setting goals and overcoming obstacles – one step at a time. Her passion has taken her around the country, running marathons in Boston, New York and elsewhere – some of them multiple times. But the most important race in Eisenberg-Argo’s life had nothing to do with running. It was a race for her health, and her life.

In the fall of 2013, Eisenberg-Argo underwent procedures to study a suspicious lump on her breast that her gynecologist, Dr. Charles Pehr, noticed weeks prior during a well woman exam. “He had asked me, ‘How long has that been there?’” Eisenberg-Argo recalled. “I didn’t know. I mean, it was so small that I didn’t think about it.”

Dr. Pehr recommended that she see the experts at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Breast Care Center for a detailed follow-up. Following a biopsy of the lump, board certified surgeon and breast care specialist Dr. Sandra Templeton scheduled her for an MRI to provide a close-up view of the area. “All of a sudden I realized this could be very serious,” Eisenberg-Argo said. “It was scary, very scary.”

The Battle Begins

When the call came, the nurse told Eisenberg-Argo, “Dr. Templeton would like to see you this afternoon.” Eisenberg-Argo’s stomach sank. That was not what she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear that everything was okay, that the lump was benign and that the doctor, in fact, didn’t need to speak with her.

Instead Eisenberg-Argo, her boyfriend, Dave, and her parents sat with Dr. Templeton, who informed her she had mucinous carcinoma of the breast – a form of cancer that begins in the milk duct and spreads into nearby healthy tissue.

“It’s a good thing Dave and my parents were with me, because after I heard that I had cancer, I heard nothing else,” Eisenberg-Argo said. “I went numb. You never want to hear those words. Never ever. I thought about how my life might change. I thought about the pain I might endure. I thought about my three wonderful children and about the love of my life.”

Dr. Templeton didn’t let her slip into desperation, though. While Eisenberg-Argo couldn’t help but think worst-case-scenario thoughts, Dr. Templeton reminded her that being optimistic was important.

Dr. Clive Shkedy.

Dr. Clive Shkedy.

“I usually see patients after they have an abnormal mammogram, or they feel a lump, or even if they have a strong family history of breast cancer,” said Dr. Templeton. “They’re concerned, of course, but my goal is to give them hope, because most patients do very well after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I try to take away the fear so that patients aren’t anxious about the entire treatment process.”

On October 16, 2013, Eisenberg-Argo underwent a lumpectomy, which is surgery in which only the tumor and some surrounding tissue is removed. “I have three children and have never undergone any type of surgery,” she said. “I was scared, but then I saw Dr. Templeton at the door of the operating room, and I just felt safe. She was a blessing.”

Eisenberg-Argo emerged from the surgery without complications and with the satisfaction that the surgeons had gotten all of the cancer. Afterward, she received about seven weeks of radiation.

Team Approach to Care

“Everyone there was fabulous,” Eisenberg-Argo said of her experience at the Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Breast Care Center. “From the surgeon and radiologist to the technicians and oncologist – everyone was lovely.”

Dr. Clive Shkedy, radiation oncologist and Medical Director of Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Cancer Center, played a pivotal role in Eisenberg-Argo’s recovery by helping her with her treatment decision and radiation therapy.

Dr. Shkedy did more than provide physical treatment, though. He made sure Eisenberg-Argo felt like more than just another case.

300-cancerIt’s not just technology and training that sets Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Breast Center apart. It’s the team approach employed by the center’s physicians and staff, who work together to ensure that every patient is receiving the best possible care and treatment in a comforting, compassionate manner.

“Providing a supportive, nurturing environment and making patients feel at home is very important to their wellbeing and facilitates them going through the stress of cancer treatment,” Dr. Shkedy said. “We don’t focus on the diagnosis of cancer but treat the whole patient physically, socially and emotionally. We view patients as people who have a cancer – not as cancer patients.”

Eisenberg-Argo’s experience also included interaction with the center’s breast care navigator, Maria Socci, a registered nurse with specialty training in oncology. Socci assists patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, serving as a resource expert, helping them understand treatment options, schedule appointments with the appropriate physicians, including breast surgeons, reconstructive surgeons, oncologists and radiation oncologists. Her role is to simply help reduce stress and provide emotional support and guidance throughout patients’ treatments so they can focus on healing.

The breast care navigator is just one key element to the Breast Care Center. Other highlights include the ability to undergo a mammogram and an ultrasound or MRI on the same day and a breast care team that discusses newly diagnosed patients and creates personalized treatment plans. The center is also available to people seeking a second opinion after being diagnosed with breast cancer at another facility.

“We have state-of-the-art technology but more importantly, specialized radiologists who only image and diagnose breast diseases,” said Dr. Shkedy. “This combination, as well as dedicated personnel, make Houston Methodist Sugar Land the ideal facility to receive health care.”

Susie Eisenberg-Argo on race day.

Susie Eisenberg-Argo on race day.

Returning to Her Running Legs

Following her treatment, Eisenberg-Argo was uncharacteristically immobile, which consequently gave her time to think about the kind of resilient woman she is. “As expected, the surgery shut down everything,” Eisenberg-Argo said. “I couldn’t physically drive to work, I didn’t sleep well and I couldn’t run.”

The latter is what bothered Eisenberg-Argo the most. For the past 14 years, she has been a member of Fort Bend Fit, a marathon training program, and has participated in more than 50 marathons.

Eisenberg-Argo was running the Boston Marathon for the 10th consecutive year on April 15, 2013, when two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

“I was about to cross the line when the first bomb went off,” Eisenberg-Argo recalled. “My boyfriend, Dave, finished before I did and was waiting at the finish line for me to cross. He saw what the television cameras saw.”

She remembers the chaos, the uninhibited fear and how Dave grabbed her into his arms tightly screaming for her to be still. The experience was traumatizing and one that Eisenberg-Argo won’t ever truly get over. Still, she didn’t let it stop her from living, from running.

“It’s still there in my mind,” she said. “But it won’t stop me from running. Terror won’t take away something I love to do.”

So when told she had breast cancer six months later, Eisenberg-Argo said she wouldn’t let the fear take control. Her determination inspired Dr. Templeton, so much so, that the two became walking buddies. “All I wanted to know is when I could start walking and running,” Eisenberg-Argo said with a laugh. “So the moment Dr. Templeton said I could start walking, I was excited. I even convinced her to walk with me, and she and I have formed an incredible friendship.”

“I told her I wasn’t going to run, but I would walk,” Dr. Templeton said with a laugh. Eisenberg-Argo has since gotten her running legs back but, true to her word, Dr. Templeton has kept up with her new walking routine.

Eisenberg-Argo is thankful for her team of doctors: Dr. Charles Pehr, gynecologist; Dr. Stephen Phillips, breast radiologist; Dr. Sandra Templeton, breast surgeon and Dr. Bushra Cheema, medical oncologist. She is also grateful for her family and friends, especially her three children Ryan, Marcella and Sammy, who were instrumental in supporting her during her journey.

The journey Eisenberg-Argo set out on a year ago is, for the most part, over. She still gets regular checkups at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, but she is cancer-free and happy. And in typical fashion, she is using her experience to help others and educate them about breast cancer.

“I encourage everyone I know to do their self-examinations and to get exams – both men and women,” she said. “The moment you feel something different, you should see your doctor.”

Schedule your screening mammogram by calling 281.242.PINK (7465) or going online at

Advances Cancer Treatment with TrueBeam

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is the first hospital in Texas to offer the newest TrueBeam radiation system at its Cancer Center. Considered the gold standard in radiation treatment, TrueBeam advances cancer treatments by allowing doctors to deliver powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint, 4D precision.

The precision of TrueBeam is measured in increments of less than a millimeter, which is made possible by the system’s sophisticated architecture. And because the system takes into account patient movement due to breathing, it can be controlled to deliver radiation at the precise proper moment to minimize the impact on surrounding tissue.

A product of Varian Medical Systems, TrueBeam is used in cancer cases in the lung, breast, head and neck, abdomen, liver and other regions. Simple treatments that used to take 10 to 30 minutes to complete can now be done in less than two minutes.

True to its design, TrueBeam was also developed with patient comfort in mind. Not only does it allow shorter treatment times, it also enables patients and doctors to communicate using to a two-way audio on three closed-circuit television systems.

Some of TrueBeam’s additional highlights include:

• The deliverance of fast, accurate,  image-guided treatments within just a few minutes per day.

• More accurate treatment by enabling physicians to “see” the tumor they treat and target tumors with sub-millimeter accuracy.

• The 25 percent reduction of the patient’s exposure to X-ray doses.

• The option to have music playing  during treatment.

For more information about TrueBeam or Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Cancer Center, contact France Goerlich, cancer care navigator, at 281.274.7930 or or visit