Don’t put off your mammogram: Debbie’s Story

A cancer diagnosis can sometimes feel surreal, especially when you are in your early 50s and have no family history of the disease. This was the case for Debbie Besse of Fairhaven. Debbie recounts her brush with breast cancer and credits her Southcoast Health providers for giving her a new lease on life and educating her on the importance of screenings as we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It started as a regular check-up with her primary care provider, Dr. John Podkowa. Visiting Dr. Podkowa was standard practice for Debbie, as she has an ongoing thyroid condition. She has been a patient of Dr. Podkowa’s for the past 10 years and only has positive reviews when speaking about him.

Receiving your regularly scheduled mammogram

“Dr. Podkowa not only listens to me, but sometimes he can even predict the questions I may have before I even ask them – followed by always having the answers,” Debbie says. “He’s just wonderful.”

Dr. Podkowa’s listening skills stem from his clinical excellence, which he demonstrated during Debbie’s check-up. Upon reviewing her chart, he quickly noticed she had not received her regularly scheduled mammogram.

“I had been lax about receiving a mammogram and hadn’t gotten one in a couple of years,” she says. “Dr. Podkowa recognized that and, in his kind and gentle manner, insisted on me getting one.”

She left his office that day with a mammogram appointment with the Southcoast Health Breast Center one week later. From that point, it was a whirlwind. Debbie received her mammogram, the results were shared with radiology, and a day later, she was scheduled for a follow-up biopsy.

“It came back as cancer,” she says. “It was all very quick. I went from Dr. Podkowa’s visit to my mammogram to my biopsy and then surgery within one week.”

A shocking and emotionally overwhelming diagnosis

Debbie recalls being shocked and emotionally overwhelmed. She learned that even though she was young and had no history of breast cancer in her family, it can still happen. However, she attributes her positive experience to the continuum of care she received across her Southcoast providers.

“It was phenomenal,” she says. “From Dr. Podkowa to my oncologist, Dr. Susan Kim, everyone was so professional and handled my care gracefully and always stayed on top of everything.”

Debbie shares that her unexpected diagnosis was softened by the care she received. She always felt comforted by the professionalism of her physicians and the staff.

“I felt truly confident in the care I was getting,” she says. “That made me feel that everything was going to be okay.”

A new chapter of life

Debbie imparts this message to all women: “Do not forgo your regular health screenings. Just do it. Although sometimes they are uncomfortable, it is worth setting the time aside. Don’t ever assume, based on history or age, that there isn’t potential [for an illness].”

Eight years later, Debbie has remained cancer-free. She visits with Dr. Kim yearly and continues as a loyal patient to Dr. Podkowa. This month, Debbie is looking forward to getting married and building a future with her husband. She credits this chapter of her life to the exceptional care of her Southcoast Health providers.

Southcoast Health provides leading-edge breast care and services to women across southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. Explore our offerings and locations, and contact your nearest Southcoast Breast Center at 855-749-3349 to schedule an appointment.