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Cancer survivor advocates from Houston and San Antonio win ASTRO Survivor Circle Awards

ARLINGTON, Va., September 11, 2018

For only the second time, two cancer survivors were selected to receive the annual American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Survivor Circle Award. Susan Rafte, a Houston breast cancer survivor, will be honored at an award ceremony on October 23 during ASTRO’s 60th Annual Meeting in San Antonio. The second recipient, veteran William Fults of San Antonio, will be posthumously awarded the honor.

“The ASTRO Survivor Circle Award recognizes the incredible value that many cancer patients and survivors contribute to their communities through service, volunteering and leadership. We are privileged to honor two inspiring Texans this year with this award,” said ASTRO President Paul Harari, MD, FASTRO.

The award is an annual recognition of cancer survivors who dedicate their time and energy in service and support of their local communities. Honorees are selected from the region in which ASTRO holds its Annual Meeting and receive a $1,000 prize.

Susan Rafte was only 30 years old when she was diagnosed with stage III ductal carcinoma in 1994. She first felt a lump in her breast while she was pregnant with her daughter. But it wasn’t until 18 months later, when Rafte pushed for a biopsy, that the lump was diagnosed as a malignant tumor. Rafte was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center by a multidisciplinary care team with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.

“From the beginning of my diagnosis, I have always been public about my disease,” Rafte said. “I felt it was important to spread awareness and provide education about breast health and breast cancer. I knew from personal experience that this disease has no boundaries.”

Rafte began giving back as a peer-to-peer support volunteer through MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 2000, she helped to start an on-site peer support program at the breast cancer center there. She also serves on many research projects and committees as a patient advocate.

In 1998, her sister, a dancer, started a fund-raising event called the Pink Ribbons Project, an arts and dance initiative to promote awareness about breast cancer and help raise funding for breast cancer advocacy and education. Since the Project’s inception, they have raised nearly $6 million. 

“I’m of the theory that we need to pay it forward,” said Rafte. “So many people helped me and my family through [my diagnosis and treatment] …We felt it was important to reach out and help others who were facing similar challenges.”

William Fults, the second honoree of the 2018 Survivor Circle Award, passed away on May 6, 2018, following a battle with prostate cancer. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer that had spread to his bones and adrenal gland. At the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Fults underwent treatment, including pelvic radiation therapy, chemotherapy, radiopharmaceutical injections, immunotherapy, surgery and medication.

Fults got involved in Us TOO, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing education and support to those affected by prostate cancer. He acted as a patient support volunteer and advocate. Fults also got involved in the prostate cancer nonprofit ZERO. His team raised the most money for the past three years as part of the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk in San Antonio. He also attended the ZERO Summit in Washington the past two years, speaking with elected officials about increasing prostate cancer research—which resulted in increased funding.

Fults served in the United States Air Force for 23 years. His family was stationed at Warren Air Force Base (AFB), Texas A&M University, Vandenberg AFB, Offutt AFB, Maxwell AFB, Randolph AFB and Lackland AFB over the course of his distinguished career.

Before his death, Fults wrote, “Get involved with any group that is in the fight to cure cancer—any type. Being involved means… putting time and personal effort toward raising funds for the fight, participating in local advocacy groups and regularly engaging politicians to gain their support.”

Fults’ wife, Casey, and sons, Jordan, Justin and Joel, will attend the award ceremony to accept the Survivor Circle Award in his honor.

ASTRO’s 60th Annual Meeting, the world’s largest scientific meeting in radiation oncology, will be held October 21-24, 2018 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. The meeting is expected to attract more than 11,000 attendees from across the globe, including oncologists from all disciplines and members of the entire radiation oncology team. Visit us online to view past Survivor Circle award winners and more information about the Survivor Circle program or for more information about the ASTRO Annual Meeting and press registration for the meeting.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is the world’s largest radiation oncology society, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. The Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics, Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology; developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers; and created the nonprofit foundation Radiation Oncology Institute. To learn more about ASTRO, visit or, sign up to receive our news and follow us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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