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“I Am Blessed” – Mary Lee

Posted on September 8, 2021

Kodak Woman Knows Importance of Cancer Screenings

Mary Lee of Kodak is a bubbly person who blesses others with her spiritual gifts. It’s no wonder that she spent decades of her career in patient support areas at LeConte Medical Center. Lee worked at the hospital for 22 years before retiring. She worked in registration, medical records and other aspects of patient care. She often sat with patients or their family members in the waiting area, holding their hand or offering a hug. Lee says it was the perfect role for her to be blessed and bless others.

Mary Lee, retired LeConte employee, smiles in front of brick wall
Mary Lee is thankful for the care she received at the LeConte Comprehensive Breast Center.

LeConte Medical Center is where she seeks care herself. After a recent routine mammogram, she became fearful when she received a call to come back in to the doctor’s office. She was wracked with nerves. “I thought for sure it was cancer,” she recalls. “It was a very scary time; I was chilled.”

Lee knows cancer and health tragedies all too well; it has been an unwelcome visitor on her doorstep too many times. First, cancer stirred up a terrible health scare for her husband. Then, Lee lost her 39-year-old son suddenly from natural causes. In 2016, her brother passed away after battling lung cancer. The following year, the dreaded disease took the life of her best friend. That is why she takes cancer screenings and any other preventive health measures very seriously.


Excellent Care, Close to Home

After an ultrasound, Robert Santee, MD, diagnostic radiology specialist at LeConte Medical Center and chief radiologist, recommended she have a biopsy.

Dr. Santee reports, “When a patient has an abnormal mammogram, the next step is to bring them back into the Comprehensive Breast Center for additional breast imaging. The additional imaging determines whether a biopsy is needed. If so, the procedure is performed to determine what the abnormality is and if there is a need for any further treatment.”

Lee’s results came back benign, meaning the tumor was noncancerous, which Dr. Santee says is “more common than not.” “It was such a scary time,” Lee recalls. “If one in eight women gets breast cancer, I knew I had a chance of getting it.”

She reflects on the deeply felt loss of her best friend, who battled breast cancer for seven years. “Because of her, I will never miss a  mammogram,” Lee vows solemnly. In a kind and loving yet firm way of her own, Lee reminds her family and friends about the importance of mammograms, especially after her own scare. “I will offer to make their appointments for them,” she says with a mother’s stern tone. “When I worked there, I would always be reminding people, ‘don’t wait! Get checked.’

If there is something there, you want to catch it early.” Dr. Santee explains, “It’s always best to follow up annually, because the goal is early detection of breast cancer. Following up with screening mammograms after a benign diagnosis is very important because while most benign tumors are not cancerous, some can be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.” He continues, “Early detection of breast cancer is important because when breast cancer is detected in its earlier stages, it is very curable. Treatment is typically shorter and less severe with fewer complications.”

Feeling Thankful

After visiting the LeConte Comprehensive Breast Center, Lee says, “One thing that stands out to me is that the staff there would say, ‘we said a prayer for you’ and I know they meant it. I have never been treated as well as I was treated – everyone was great.” She also recounts witnessing the staff at the Women’s Center interacting with other patients, seeing every person being treated with kindness, and causing her to swell with pride for her hometown hospital. “I know it wasn’t just me they treated exceptionally,” she says.

Lee affirms, “Something like that [biopsy] scare reinforces that you should live every day to the fullest. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So that is what I try to do — to live every day the best I can. Your life can change in a minute; mine did. And that is why people should get their preventive screenings.”

To schedule your mammogram or leanr more, visit LeConteMedicalCenter.com/BreastCenter.