Our Heroes

11.01.139:00 PM ET

Mother, Surgeon, Breast Cancer Warrior

Dr. Elisa Port on being named the American Cancer Society's Mother of the Year.

Mother of the Year. It’s an incredible honor/title, and I have yet to meet a woman who feels worthy of such an awesome designation, myself included. The honor was particularly meaningful coming from such a noble institution: The American Cancer Society (ACS). For decades, the ACS has been providing critical services to cancer patients. The ACS website is one of the most frequently visited by newly-diagnosed cancer patients, who know that this site will provide them with reliable, data-driven information, resources, and referrals for receiving the best care possible. The ACS also serves as a patient resource with its strong network of survivors that provide significant support to those newly diagnosed. Finally, the Hope Lodge provides cancer patients and their families with accommodations while undergoing cancer treatment. For some patients who do not live near a major medical center or cancer center, staying at the Hope Lodge is the only way they can manage and afford to get topnotch care. My patients and so many others have been beneficiaries of all the services that American Cancer Society provides everyday.

Receiving any recognition at all from the American Cancer Society would be an honor, but I was incredibly humbled to receive this particular honor: Mother of the Year. As is the case for most women, I struggle every day with trying to get it all done and prioritizing. Of course I always feel that someone, usually the kids or the husband, is getting the short end of the stick. On a daily basis our family’s lives feel like some sort of advanced military operation. However, in my job, every day, I have the benefit of participating in the care of other women—amazing women, themselves mothers, sisters, daughters—who take all of the normal challenges of day to day life that I deal with, and add on top of it handling their diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and survivorship heroically and with such grace. They are my heroes, they inspire me every day, and from my standpoint, they are the true Mothers of the Year.

Having children and a family definitely help me to be a better surgeon. It doesn’t necessarily affect what I do technically in the operating room or my decision-making regarding what a patient needs to get them better. But I see every single patient as a person who is deeply connected to others in the same way that I am with my family. Knowing how important her well-being is to others in her life is something that I keep at the forefront of my mind while delivering her care.

While my job is to give care to individual patients, I am also involved in breast cancer research and advancing efforts to improve cancer care and survival from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society is also involved in funding important research efforts that can advance science and provide women with the next level of care. For a woman diagnosed with early breast cancer, survival is high, approximately 90 percent, and for the newly diagnosed woman, she has every reason to be optimistic. But with over 200,000 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States, even a small percent not surviving translates into thousands of lives lost, and tragedy for too many women and their families. As long as even one woman succumbs to breast cancer, funding for the American Cancer Society and other organizations involved in research must become stronger than ever.

Again, I am incredibly grateful and honored to receive this recognition from the American Cancer Society. My patients honor me everyday by allowing me to participate in their care, and I feel privileged to be able to do this. In fact, taking care of patients and seeing these amazing women that I care for go on and live their lives is truly all the honor that I need and more than I could ever ask for. To receive the Mother of the Year award from the ACS is truly the icing on the cake.

At the American Cancer Society’s Mothers of the Year Awards Luncheon on October 28, 2013. (American Cancer Society, ANNIE WATT)