Battling Breast Cancer with a Newborn

By Drew Munhausen

Selvy Azer’s path to pregnancy was not an easy one. Azer, 33, and her husband of 12 years had been trying to have a baby for a while, finally succeeding after their third cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

As Azer approached the end of her pregnancy, her excitement was halted when her doctor discovered a mass in her breast

Azer was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My family has a long history of breast cancer,” Azer said. “I started getting annual mammograms when I was 30 years old, and I was good about doing self-checks.”

Azer had a mixed reaction to the diagnosis.

“I don’t like to complain about things and burden people. The more I complain, the weaker I feel. There were tears and there was laughter. Laughter is just something that helps me cope with things.”

The mass was detected by Hany Ahmed, MD, an OB-GYN affiliated with Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital. Dr. Ahmed referred Azer to Mike Ratliff, MD, surgeon and breast cancer specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Greater Heights. Dr. Ratliff approved Azer for early delivery of her baby so that she could begin her cancer treatments immediately.

“We have a board of oncology physicians who come to a consensus on an individualized treatment plan for every patient,” Dr. Ratliff said. “All decisions are based off of research and data from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). It makes for outstanding cancer care. We are very proud of the care we provide.”

Azer delivered a healthy baby girl, Gianna, at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights in January 2019.

“Gianna is a happy baby,” Azer said. “I was so thankful that all of this came at the end of the pregnancy and it didn’t impact my little bundle of joy. All of my doctors were so supportive. They even came to visit me in the hospital after I had my baby.”

Azer had to begin her chemotherapy treatments just two weeks after delivering Gianna. She had more than a dozen treatments between February and July of 2019, all while raising a newborn.

“I didn’t have the luxury of staying in bed, tired,” Azer said. “Gianna gave me a lot of energy at that time. I think she actually helped me get through all of the treatment. I never had time to sit and feel sick.”

Azer underwent a bilateral mastectomy to surgically remove both breasts after completing chemotherapy, followed by breast reconstructive surgery. Azer’s physician team determined a double mastectomy was the best option to reduce the risk of a recurrence.

“Selvy tested positive for the breast cancer gene mutation (BRCA), which means a high likelihood for occurrence of breast cancer in either breast,” Dr. Ratliff said. “A bilateral mastectomy is the standard treatment for those who are BRCA positive. Without bilateral mastectomies, the risk of developing breast cancer in either breast is unacceptably high. Selvy’s willingness to have the surgery underscores how terrific and courageous she is. She wants to live a healthy life for her husband and her daughter.”

Azer is currently cancer-free and enjoys her time with Gianna, who is now 8 months old.

“I think my attitude made things go as smoothly as it could,” said Azer. “I am always energetic and I think it kept me from being too fatigued. I had fun with things like switching up wigs and colors from time to time. I did my best to not look sick.”

For more information on breast cancer services at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center, visit Use ScheduleNow to make an appointment.


  1. Keep smiling Selvy, this is the best remedy for any problem.
    I am Sandra’s aunt. I had a mastectomy then a reconstruction. Everything is going well so far. Keep your hopes up and trust in the Lord.

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