Pam Bergee discovered family in her cancer.
Pam was moving back to Northfield when she got the phone call: That lump in her breast was cancer.
Her doctor at Allina Clinic felt the lump during a regular checkup. A mammogram and ultrasound at Allina raised concerns. A biopsy by NH+C radiologist David Morrell, MD confirmed the diagnosis.
“I was thrown for a loop. But it was actually great timing,” says Pam, who was moving back into her family’s home with her two teens while their father deployed for a year overseas. “Everything fell into place” as NH+C coordinated Pam’s care with partners Allina and Mayo Clinic. "They coordinated my appointments so seamlessly that I never had to worry about my next steps. It was the last thing I needed to think about, and it was all managed so well. There were four organizations involved in my care, and the communication between them was fantastic.”
NH+C’s cancer care navigator “coordinated everything and held my hand through it all,” Pam says. “I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
Pam went through two rounds of chemotherapy over three months at Northfield Hospital’s Cancer Care & Infusion Center, with medical oncologist Jasmine Kamboj, MD of Allina. Later, NH+C surgeon Ashley Marek, MD performed a double mastectomy at Northfield Hospital. “Dr. Marek was fantastic,” Pam says. “She explained things as they were happening and answered all my questions.”
Afterwards, Pam underwent daily radiation treatments for five weeks at Mayo Clinic’s Radiation Oncology Clinic across the street from Northfield Hospital. Lastly, Pam had reconstruction surgery with plastic surgeon Valerie LeMaine, MD – a partner of NH+C.
“Having everything right here in Northfield was such a godsend,” Pam says. “I was a single mom coping with pandemic. I lived 10 minutes from the hospital. To get my care here, and not have to go to Rochester – it was a game changer.”
Pam’s positive attitude kept her son and daughter calm, too. “They helped me smile throughout it all, and they stepped up when I needed them,” Pam recalls. Midway through chemo, Pam was sicker than usual. “That’s the only time I could tell that they were scared,” she says. “We just tried not to focus on the bad that could happen. It brought us closer together.”
Work colleagues felt like family: “Whatever I needed – time for rest, help with work, some uplifting words – they rallied around me. Everyone was so supportive.”
Pam’s care team at the Cancer Care & Infusion Center became like family, too: ‘’I still carry a group picture of them in my car,” Pam smiles. She brought support for her first chemotherapy treatment; then the pandemic hit, and visitors were no longer allowed. “That sucked, but I never felt alone,” Pam says. “The staff did everything they could. They’d chat with me for as long as I needed. All the nurses would stop by and check on me. Everyone was so kind.”
Pam has been cancer-free for over a year . . . and counting.
Her advice for others facing cancer: “Take it one day at a time. Your world is rocked, and you’re shocked, angry, sad, scared. Allow yourself to feel the feels and then when it’s time, take charge of it.”
A positive mindset helps, Pam says. “I fed myself with positive ideas and daily devotions, and blocked negative things on social media and news. I focused on anything I could do to laugh and smile.”
That includes “surrounding yourself with people like Northfield Hospital has,” she adds. “You’re in charge of your care and if you’re not comfortable, you have to say so. Smile, laugh when you can, be genuine, have faith and everything else falls into place.”