A surgical technician faces her own battle with breast cancer


“The doctor needs to talk to you.”

The first time Yami Mora heard these words, she knew it was bad news. The 36-year-old surgical tech called to get her mammogram results, and was asked to return for “another look.” After an ultrasound, the radiology tech came in visibly concerned. “The doctor needs to talk to you,” she said. Yami knew that technologists delivered good news. Doctors delivered bad news.

Yami is proud to work alongside some of the finest surgeons in Houston at Westside Surgical Hospital, a multi-specialty hospital near southwest freeway and Weslayan, with a special focus on breast health. She enjoys the teamwork of surgery, and has a sense of satisfaction when she learns that the patient is recovering well – and she played a role in that.


Yami noticed pain in her breast in June of last year, and realized the likely cause while doing her job.

“The doctor performed a mastectomy of a patient’s cancerous breast, and I asked if I could feel the tissue of the breast just removed. As soon as I felt the swollen tissue and saw the enlarged blood vessel, I recognized the feeling from my own breast self exam,” she recalls. Yami told herself to just ignore it. As a hardworking mother of two boys — Bryan, age 13 and Alan, age 10, — she and her husband stay busy with their jobs and family.

“I didn’t have time to deal with it,” she says. “Breast cancer was not in my plan.”

She scheduled her well woman exam, and was given an order for a routine diagnostic mammogram. “I didn’t tell my doctor about the pain I was experiencing, so he didn’t urge me to schedule it right away,” she says.

Yami went home and placed the order on her bedside table, thinking she would get to it when she had time. And that may have been a while, if not for Bryan’s volleyball injury. When he needed to see a plastic surgeon for his hand surgery, Yami scheduled her mammogram for the same day as his surgical consult.

“I figured, since I was already taking time off work for his doctor visit, that it was a good time to get my mammogram,” she says.

Three days later, Yami got the call to come back in. She had a 3D ultrasound and a biopsy, then waited for the results.



When she called her doctor’s office, she heard those dreaded words again. The doctor needs to talk to you. Yami scheduled an appointment for the next day. “I knew. I knew it wasbad news. You don’t schedule an appointment to get test results when everything is fine.”

Yami’s worst fears were confirmed. She had a 2 cm stage 1 mass in her right breast. She needed surgery as soon as possible, and she could think of no one better suited for the job than the excellent surgeon she assisted at Westside Surgical Hospital. She worked the rest of her shift with strength and courage.

As she walked out of the hospital, tears streamed down her cheeks. She cried the whole way home, and walked into her house. “I have cancer,” she told her husband. He reached out his arms and held her, saying nothing and just letting her cry.


The next morning at work, Yami scrubbed in, and Dr. Elizabeth Bonefas walked in to prepare for a breast surgery. “I took one look at her, and said. “Dr. Bonefas, I have cancer. Can you please treat me?” says Yami.

Dr. Bonefas placed her gentle gloved hands on Yami’s tender frightened face, and said, “Don’t worry, dear. I will take care of you.” Yami instantly felt relieved. She elected to have a double mastectomy with Dr. Bonefas, and breast reconstruction with Dr. Abdel Fustok at Westside Surgical Hospital. When her co-workers learned of Yami’s diagnosis and upcoming surgery, they walked alongside her at that year’s Komen Race for the Cure as part of the Westside Surgical Hospital team.

After surgery, Yami awoke to find her room flooded with flowers and cards from her friends at the hospital. Later she learned that her co-workers had started a collection to help with the cost of her treatments. Their support and love gave Yami the strength she needed to face this scary battle toward survivorship.

Now, one year later, Yami can hardly believe the roller coaster her life has taken. She has undergone two surgeries, chemotherapy, Herceptin and multiple consults for side effects she is experiencing, such as numbness in her hands. Every day is a struggle, but Yami is stronger than ever before.

She approaches work with a new perspective. “I tell patients to pray. Get peace in their hearts when they think they are at the lowest point. Now I understand.

“I hope that by telling my story, I can affect at least one woman who knows something is wrong, but chooses to ignore it, like I did,” says Yami. “Please don’t let it go. Please act on your concerns. If the doctor needs to talk to you, it may seem bad at first, but knowing the bad news is the first step to taking action.”