Katrena Rockeymore

Katrena Rockeymore

Broward Health employee Debbie Eldredge is known for her positive energy.

Debbie Eldredge

Broward Health employee Debbie Eldredge is known for her positive energy.

The picture of good health, you might never guess that in recent years she’s overcome not one major health challenge but two. The first was a weight loss journey that began in 2015, in which she lost more than half her body weight, going from 300 to 118 pounds just from exercising and eating healthy.

Living a healthy lifestyle became a passion of hers, but in 2020, she wasn’t exercising as much and her weight shot up. She went to see her primary care doctor, Avinash Persad, D.O. with the Broward Health Physician Group, who became an accountability coach for her.

Over the next couple of years, Debbie got back down to her goal weight range and was feeling good when she experienced a sudden weight gain and loss. She went to see Dr. Persad, who noticed her bloodwork was off. That led to an ultrasound, then a biopsy, and finally, a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

The thyroid is a gland located in the throat that produces hormones and regulates metabolism. Thyroid cancer is curable and has a high survival rate when caught early before it has spread to other parts of the body.

“When I got the diagnosis, I was shocked because I thought I was back at my top health,” said Debbie. “And I was scared because other than a C-section, I had never had surgery or been in a hospital. But I had a wonderful team working together and advocating for me.”

Her team of doctors included Dr. Persad, her surgeon, Ryan Sobel, M.D., the Director of Head and Neck Cancer Surgery at Broward Health Medical Center, and her endocrinologist Elys Perez, M.D., who are also both with Broward Health Physician Group. They determined surgery was the best option for her.

“Thyroid cancer is extremely common in our community, and, as in Debbie’s case, the diagnosis can be unexpected and traumatic for patients,” said Dr. Sobel. “Thyroid cancer is very treatable, but it does require surgery to remove the thyroid gland and sometimes lymph nodes in the area.”

“Discussing treatment for any cancer should be a detailed conversation, addressing all patient concerns so they feel comfortable and understand each aspect of their care,” added Dr. Sobel. “In that way, we can function like partners. Debbie’s surgery and her recovery went very smoothly.”

In addition to her medical team, Debbie is grateful for the support she received from her adult children, who helped her stay positive and strong. Her daughter put her busy life on hold for 10 days to be with her before, during and after surgery, and she was in constant contact with her son, who lives in England.

After her successful surgery at Broward Health Medical Center, it was difficult for Eldredge not to be able to exercise every day because her mental and physical fitness were so important to her happiness. After Dr. Sobel was able to take her drain out, she was doing so well and so eager to return to activities that he let her go back to work and she slowly started exercising again.

“As I recovered, I got my energy back and I felt amazing,” said Debbie. “I feel like I went through the hardest time that I could have possibly gone through and now I’m so much stronger.”

Debbie says she felt blessed because she had a team that cared about her, and she would not have wanted to be anywhere else.

“I feel like the people care at Broward Health, and that's what matters when you are facing a health challenge and don't know what's going to happen, just feeling like someone cares about you makes all the difference,” said Debbie.

“I hope my story encourages people who have already overcome a health challenge to continue getting regular checkups and to be aware of their bodies,” said Debbie. “I also want people to know that overcoming a diagnosis like cancer and returning to an amazing state of health is possible.”

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