Mr. Speaker, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month is devoted to raising awareness and educating folks about breast cancer and honoring the thousands of women across our nation who have been diagnosed, fighting, or have survived breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is the second deadliest cancer among American women. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and it is estimated that this year more than 252,000 cases of invasive breast cancer is expected to be reported. In Texas, 17,566 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.

In the Second District of Texas, I am proud of our local hospitals, school districts, and non-profits who promote breast cancer awareness and prevention during this month. Many are showing their support by replacing their outdoor light bulb with a pink bulb. I have noticed many front porch lights shining pink around our town. These pink bulbs help support a local nonprofit called Project Mammogram.

Project Mammogram offers mammograms and other services free to patients in the Lake Houston area. Remember, not every woman can afford a mammogram. By providing free mammograms this organization has saved thousands of women.

Almost everyone we know has been touched by this disease. Unfortunately, this disease has hit close to home for one of our very own community leaders, Leslie Raffa. Leslie and her husband, Tony, own two restaurants in the Lake Houston area. They are well-loved and respected in the community. Leslie battled breast cancer for over two and a half years, her final treatment was in February 2017. During the course of her treatments, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, breast reconstruction and chemotherapy. During her battle, Leslie lost her sister to breast cancer in the summer of 2016.

Leslie continued to fight while mourning the death of her sister. Leslie rang the monumental bell at MD Anderson in April of 2016. The bell signifies the end to treatment. Ringing the bell is a celebration. But Leslie soon realized that the end of treatment is not necessarily the end. She thought if she would just get to the end and cross the finish line it would all be over. But she soon discovered an emotional fall out occurs. Cancer is hard mentally. It takes months, years, to recover. She shares this piece of advice for those going through what she went through, ‘‘it’s ok to have a pity party, but don’t unpack and stay there.’’ Leslie exudes positive energy and happiness, even during the lowest moments. She beat the odds that come along with this disease and tries her best to educate those around her to get annual breast exams.

Now this is where I usually say: ‘‘And that’s just the way it is.’’ But Leslie’s story is not over. The same year she completed her last treatment, Hurricane Harvey devastated our area. Raffa’s Waterfront Grill was destroyed. Friends and family gathered quickly around them to help rebuild the restaurant that took on 5 feet of water. Leslie didn’t flounder in pity and give up; she put on her water boots and gloves (I am sure they are pink) and began the cleanup process. Raffa’s will open this year, and our community cannot be any happier for Tony and Leslie. This month Leslie will speak in front of hundreds of folks at the annual In the Pink Luncheon to share her survival story. Stories like Leslie’s are an inspiration and a reminder that we must keep up the fight until there is a cure.

And that’s just the way it is