Deborah Pudlo has been one of the Connecticut Sun’s biggest fans since the team came to Connecticut in 2003. She is also a breast cancer survivor. A season ticket holder now fifteen years, Pudlo will be in attendance this weekend when the Sun celebrate their Rock the Pink weekend for breast cancer awareness.
“For me, it wasn’t unusual for the radiologist to want to do an ultrasound after a mammogram,” Pudlo said. “I had a spot on my left breast that [the doctors] had been keeping an eye on for years. Every couple mammograms or so they wanted to do an ultrasound and usually they came back and said I was fine.”
However, a few years ago, the results from the ultrasound would come back with a different result. “In December 2016, after I had the ultrasound they said they wanted to do a biopsy,” Pudlo said. “That was kind of scary. It was about three days after I had the biopsy that I found out I had breast cancer.”
About one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. That’s an average of one diagnosis every two minutes.
However, the New London native was lucky. Doctors had caught her cancer early and were optimistic that it hadn’t began to spread. “My cancer was [caught] really early,” Pudlo said. “The surgeon who removed it said that it was just starting to involve the area out of where it started. It hadn’t involved any lymph nodes and it hadn’t really gone anywhere. Mostly I felt like myself.”
Pudlo had a solid support system of friends and her significant other, but she is also very grateful for the doctors and the Smilow Cancer Center that treated her. “They were really helpful,” Pudlo said. “They give you a lot of information. For me, I’m kind of an information person and no matter how bad something is, I just wanted to know what’s going on.
“[Smilow Cancer Center] gave me folders about chemotherapy and I got another folder when I had radiation. They suggested websites, so having all that information really helped.” All of this support and care helped Pudlo become a positive statistic in the world of breast cancer as one of the 3.3 million survivors in the United States today.
Now, she has been cancer free for two years, meaning she can continue to attend Sun games, something that she had fallen in love with well before being diagnosed. “This is my fifteenth season as a season ticket holder,” Pudlo said. “I talked a lot of trash during the 1995 season when the UConn Women’s Basketball Team was going undefeated and winning a National Championship, I was sort of like, ‘If Rebecca [Lobo] wants to play after college she has to go to Europe because we don’t have a league.’”
Pudlo had been waiting for professional women’s basketball to come to the United States and in 2003 she was able to get even more than that. “We had the best women’s basketball players here [in the United States],” Pudlo said. “But we didn’t have a league. What’s up with that? Then the WNBA comes and puts a team right in my backyard. It was time to go watch some basketball.”
A decade and a half later, Pudlo is still going strong, supporting the Sun and getting to be a part of a community that she cherishes. “Being in the crowd, you get to sit with the same people [as a season ticket holder],” Pudlo said. “We have a little banter and we harass the referees and cheer for the Sun.
“They’re great [this year]. And they just got Theresa Plaisance, so that gives them another really large body so when they play teams with a lot of bigs they can compete with that.” As the season progresses, Pudlo hopes that the Sun will remain among the top two seeds in order to secure a first-round bye once the playoffs roll around.
“It seems like everybody is happy to be here,” Pudlo said of this year’s team. “We’ve got an inside game, outside game and a great defense. This year is just really exciting, the players are all fired up and it gets the crowd all fired up.”
While she was going through treatment Pudlo said that it is important to set a goal. Her advice to others is to set a goal for something to look forward to. For her, the goal was to get back to Mohegan Sun Arena. “Stay hopeful,” Pudlo said. “One of my goals when I was going through treatment was that I wanted to get through everything because I seriously didn’t want to miss any of the Sun season. That was my goal.”