Beverly Koster was blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011. The mother of three – and grandmother of 10 – had no family history of cancer, though up until 2008, she followed the advice of her primary care physician and scheduled her annual mammography exams. Things changed when she lost her job. Without insurance, the New Hampshire native no longer had the ability to pay for routine care. Forced to prioritize expenses, she stopped scheduling the exam.
In 2011, as a newly-hired temporary employee at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she learned about Dana-Farber’s Mammography Van. Reluctant to ask for time off of work, she was struck by the convenience of the van, and though she had not been experiencing any symptoms, she reached out to inquire about an appointment. Comforted to learn that she could be seen regardless of her insurance or income status, Beverly scheduled an appointment. A few weeks later, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Fortunately, her prognosis was good. Three years later, Beverly is cancer-free, though she still shudders at the memory of learning that she had cancer. “Even though I knew there had been real progress in cancer treatment, I still associated cancer with death. I was forced to face my own mortality.”
Now a full-time employee in Dana-Farber’s Community Benefits Office, which oversees the Mammography Van, Beverly continues to make the daily four-hour commute to Dana-Farber each day. Asked why, she credits the van with saving her life and a desire to pay it forward. “If Dana-Farber hadn’t had the van, it would have been at least a year, if not 18 months before I would have scheduled an appointment. Who knows what might have happened. This made such a difference in my life, so I don’t mind committing my time to this commute. I feel like I’m giving back and helping others in some way.”