Nan Harman-Dempsey has never been afraid of a challenge.
After all, that’s what led her to become an attorney and start practicing law in the heart of Alpharetta. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was Wellstar who came to her defense.
For years, Nan put her time and energy into representing clients in the courtroom, always brushing off her annual exam. Before she knew it, nearly a decade had passed since her last mammogram. It was only due to her primary care physician’s persistence that Nan decided to schedule an appointment.
“My doctor had been begging me for a long time to get a mammogram,” Nan reflected. “I finally caved in and went. Turns out, I hadn’t had a mammogram in over eight years.”
Even after her mammogram, Nan wasn’t worried.
“The staff said, ‘We’ll see you next year’ as I was heading out,” Nan recounted, noting she was in and out of the appointment in record time. “I left without a second thought. It was back to business as usual for me.”
But the next day, Nan received a phone call requesting she return for follow-up testing. At her appointment, Nan studied the black and white images captured from the mammogram on the screen, perplexed.
“On my X-ray, there were four tiny white spots lined up like little soldiers,” Nan said, describing the intensity of the situation. “I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at, but that’s when the physician explained, ‘This is your body telling us to look further.’”
Following a biopsy, Nan was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Published on August 13, 2020
Last updated 11:36 AM August 28, 2023
Nan Harman-Dempsey standing in front of a desk in her home office.
Nan Harman-Dempsey has never been afraid of a challenge.
When I first meet with a patient, I focus on helping them feel less scared and try to help them understand the whole process. It’s very rewarding to help patients feel better and get back to their normal lives.
- Dr. Laura Pearson
Wellstar Breast Surgeon
Listen to Nan's Story
Treating cancer STAT
Within days, Nan arrived at the Wellstar Specialty Teams and Treatment (STAT) Clinic, a specialized cancer center designed to help cancer patients start treatment as soon as possible. In most cases, the patient can go from diagnosis to treatment in as little as 15 days—instead of waiting weeks or months.
“When a patient comes into the STAT Clinic, they meet with a surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and geneticist all in one appointment on the same day,” explained Dr. Mark McLaughlin, Wellstar radiation oncologist. “Because everyone is together at one time, it promotes better communication, cuts down on office visits and accelerates care right from the start. As a team, we then create the patient’s personalized treatment plan.”
Because her breast cancer was caught in its early stage, Nan was a candidate to receive intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) at Wellstar North Fulton Medical Center. This groundbreaking procedure allows patients to receive just one concentrated dose of radiation during surgery.
For Nan, that would mean getting back to her normal routine faster rather than enduring weeks of time-consuming radiation treatments.
Even after setting a date for surgery and learning about the new treatment, Nan never felt afraid of the next steps. With Wellstar Breast Surgeon Dr. Laura Pearson’s calm reassurance, Nan knew she was in good hands.
“Dr. Pearson didn’t even have to say, ‘You’ll be okay.’ Her warm smile made me feel completely comfortable through the entire process,” Nan remembered.
“When I first meet with a patient, I focus on helping them feel less scared and try to help them understand the whole process,” Dr. Pearson explained. “It’s very rewarding to help patients feel better and get back to their normal lives.”
With the help of Wellstar’s speedy STAT Clinic, Nan had all her questions answered and a treatment plan in place.
Back in action
Before Nan knew it, the day of the surgery had arrived.
As discussed in her consultation, everything happened in one fell swoop. Side by side, Dr. Pearson removed Nan’s tumor and Dr. McLaughlin delivered radiation to prevent the cancer from returning.
“When it comes to breast cancer, IORT is unique because it requires close collaboration from the care team. I literally couldn’t do the procedure without Dr. McLaughlin, and he couldn’t do it without me,” Dr. Pearson said, explaining their dual roles in the surgical process. “From start to finish, we work together to ensure the operation is successful.”
From the technicians to the physicians, the entire Wellstar medical team supported Nan throughout her cancer journey.
“Everyone was always so positive and upbeat,” Nan said. “They’ll tell you the truth about your health situation, but in a way that makes you feel at ease.”
Just miles from her home, Nan received state-of-the-art cancer care at Wellstar North Fulton—and that made all the difference in her recovery.
“Wellstar North Fulton is in such a great location, between Alpharetta and Roswell,” Nan raved. “Since I was so close to home, it took a lot of the stress and pressure off me after surgery.”
Because of her quick treatment, Nan was even able to return home the same day as her surgical procedure. Only a short while later, it was time for Nan’s follow-up appointment to make sure cancer hadn’t returned.
“I still remember when the test results came back. Dr. Pearson told me, ‘You’re cancer-free. We got everything,’” Nan said, recalling the life-changing words.
“At Wellstar, it’s about more than just making patients feel better,” Dr. McLaughlin said, echoing Wellstar’s sentiments on patient care. “With treatments like IORT, patients can get back to their lives sooner and live life to the fullest.”
For Nan, that meant returning to the courtroom, confident and cancer-free.
“Wellstar renewed my lease on life,” Nan said. “I can never say enough about how well they treated me the entire time I was in their care.”
As for women who may be avoiding their annual check-up, Nan gave some parting words of advice to them.
“Go every year to get a mammogram. Don’t put it off. It could save your life.”
Have you had a mammogram?
Screening for breast cancer at regular intervals can help catch breast cancer earlier — before symptoms appear — for better outcomes. Learn more about mammograms and find a location near you. Or call (678) 581-5900 to schedule your mammogram now.