Young doctor treating COVID-19 patients diagnosed with breast cancer - and wins the battle

A Royal Oak doctor who was caring for COVID-19 patients suddenly finds herself on the other side of the diagnosis when she learns she has breast cancer.

The emotions were strong as Dr. Bethany Pezcowski, who works long hours in the emergency room, rang the bell to celebrate her final cancer treatment - nearly a year after her diagnosis.

"(It's) probably one the best sounds you'll ever hear," Dr. Pezcowski said.

She was working long hours in April 2020 in the ER, as hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Who gets cancer during a pandemic? It's mindblowing and I was just 32 at the time of the diagnosis. So, I was young, as well," said Dr. Pezcowski.

When the doctor becomes the patient, the treatment and search for answers started.

Dr. Bethany Pezcowski

"I did do genetic studies - I was tested for about 140 genes - all of them were negative. I do have a very strong family history of it, so most likely we just don't know the gene," said Dr. Pezcowski.

She's a regular at Proving Grounds Coffee Shop in Royal Oak, where the employees became her friends as they watched her lose her hair to cancer. But she still smiled over a cup of coffee.

"She's the brightest, most amazing person ever and she's just so positive. I just looked forward to seeing her every day because, like, I just loved her," said Priscilla Yousif from Proving Grounds.

After months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and then radiation, she worked her way through treatment and tells every woman to know her body.

Dr. Bethany Pezcowski

"I always try to tell all my girlfriends (that) if you're not old enough for a mammogram yet, do monthly self-exams. That's how I found it. I was lucky, I found it early. I was stage 2," said Dr. Pezcowski.

In late January, she finished her final radiation treatment at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Cancer Center. But she first popped over to her friends at the Proving Grounds where she was greeted with love and support, similar to what she gave others through her fight.

"There was a big sign for me, congratulating me on finishing. They had this big area of decorations. They had pink cookies for me and a pink cake that said 'cancer-free.' It was a very emotional moment for me. I definitely ugly-cried," said Dr. Pezcowski. "I think it was even more difficult having cancer during the pandemic because what little life I probably would have had, during treatment was gone because I was concerned and I didn't want to get COVID, especially being compromised during a big chunk of my treatment. 

Dr. Bethany Pezcowski

"So being able to go there multiple times a week and have that human connection and bond with people that genuinely care about you and want to know how you're doing and ask how you're doing - meant the world to me." 

Dr. Pezcowski is now on medication including monthly shots and daily pills to block her hormones and will return to work in March to help patients, once again.