Judy Ringler

Judy Ringler
Grand Forks, ND

Mother’s Diagnosis Was A Wake-Up Call

 Judy Ringler, was surprised at her mother’s cervical cancer stage-four diagnosis. Although Judy knew her mother had never had cervical cancer screenings, her mother didn’t seem to be ill. For Judy, the diagnosis was a wake-up call, yet she didn’t schedule her regular Pap test because she couldn’t afford it. “It had been 15 years – easy – since I had had a Pap test. Even with mom having cervical cancer, it was kind of like, what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me and then to top it off, I just couldn’t afford it,” Judy said.

In 2000, Judy learned about Women’s Way, North Dakota’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program. She picked up a Women’s Way brochure, read through it, and set it aside. She thought it would be too much of a hassle to enroll. When signs of menopause began, Judy finally made the call. “I was surprised at how easy it was to enroll, and the gals at Women’s Way were just so concerned that I hadn’t had a Pap test in so long. When I did enroll in Women’s Way and I did get my Pap test, I felt really good about myself. It showed that I cared about myself,” Judy said.

 Judy’s test results came back negative for cervical cancer, which left Judy elated. “I saw what cervical cancer does. It is devastating. I don’t want to die from cervical cancer and now, with Women’s Way, I can get my regular Pap tests and have that peace of mind,” Judy said. She now encourages women to use Women’s Way services through her job at a local church. She says all women should get checked as a boost to self-esteem.

 Today, Judy enjoys reading and looks forward to growing old with her “main squeeze.” She is thankful to be cancer-free and proud that she makes time to get regular Pap tests. “Having cervical cancer screenings and a mammogram … having made the decision to do that on a routine basis makes me feel really good about myself,” Judy said.


Frances Allard-Abbott

Frances Allard-Abbott
Dunseith, ND

Getting Regular Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings Sets an Example for Others

It is a crisp fall day, and Frances Allard-Abbott, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, is busy in her kitchen among the many Mason jars and lids she is using for canning pickles. She flits around the small room, amidst the pings and pops of sealing jars, making her signature salsa and drawing the canning from the hot water bath. On her walls, and adorning nearly every space on her refrigerator, are photos of her children and grandchildren. She cherishes her family and shows her love by taking care of herself. Frances wants to be around for others so she makes time to get yearly mammograms and regular Pap tests.

“Women are the life givers, the caregivers. We are the first teachers. We need to get these yearly mammograms and regular Pap tests to show our families that we care; that our health is important. We need to show them by example, by getting in and doing these screenings,” she said.

Frances uses the Women’s Way program to help pay for her breast and cervical cancer screenings. Women’s Way is North Dakota’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program. Women’s Way provides low- or no-cost mammograms and Pap tests for women ages 40 through 64 who meet income criteria, are underinsured, or who have no insurance.

Frances learned about Women’s Way through Indian Health Services. As a respected elder, she lets other women know about the program and the importance of regular screenings.

“If you catch the cancers early, then you have a better chance. I know some women think mammograms hurt, but it is okay. It is one minute of your life. It is one minute that could save your life,” Frances said. “Taking care of our health sets an example for others.”

Since 2003, Frances has faithfully used Women’s Way to get her breast and cervical cancer screenings. She plans to continue setting the example of self-care. “I have a lot of things to do. I have children and grandchildren. I want to be here to enjoy them,” Frances said.


Paula Mundt

Paula Mundt
Westhope, ND

Make Time For Mammograms

It had been 10 years since Paula Mundt had a mammogram or Pap test. “I know these screenings are important, but then, everything; your husband, your house, your job, everything seems more important and you just don’t take time to take care of yourself. This isn’t a good thing,” Paula said.

In October of 2000, Paula happened upon the county nurse at the senior center and asked the nurse about the pink ribbon on her lapel. That little pink ribbon, a symbol of breast cancer support, opened the door to talk about the importance of yearly mammograms to detect and treat breast cancer early. It also opened the door for Paula to learn about Women’s Way, North Dakota’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program that provides low or no cost mammograms and Pap tests for women ages 40 through 64 who meet income criteria, are underinsured, or who have no insurance.

Paula signed up for Women’s Way, and within the year she helped three other women sign-up. “Women’s Way sure takes the burden off your mind about paying for mammograms and Pap tests. Just knowing you’ve gone in for screenings makes you feel real good,” Paula said.

In 2001, Paula found a lump in her breast. When she went to the doctor for her regular breast and cervical cancer screenings that year, he also found the lump and ordered further testing. “I knew about the lump, but I wasn’t going to tell him because I just didn’t want it to be there. I was in a panic,” Paula said. She called her local Women’s Way coordinator who helped her understand the ultrasound process. “Women’s Way helped me through the panic and gave me an opportunity to do that follow-up work. I probably wouldn’t have done it without them because of the expenses,” she said.
The follow-up testing clarified that Paula’s lump was not cancer. The next year, she fully learned the importance of taking care of oneself.

Paula discovered just how much she was needed when her husband was severely injured in a worksite accident. Having fallen from an oil rig, Paula’s husband broke nearly every bone in his body and suffered brain swelling. She was by his side and helped him recover from the near-fatal fall. “I need to stay well to take care of him. I’m looking forward to him getting better and to us growing old together,” Paula said.

Today, Paula’s husband is getting better and is visiting the workshop he spent so much time in before the accident. Paula stays busy reading and canning vegetables from her garden. She makes sure to get her yearly mammogram and regular Pap tests. “We have to take care of ourselves. If you don’t have the finances or if you are scared, Women’s Way is there to help you. The people that work for Women’s Way are very knowledgeable and friendly and they make you feel like you aren’t alone. They go that extra mile. There is just no reason not to use Women’s Way,” she said.


Marleen Stammen

Marleen Stammen

Palermo, N.D.

No Insurance? Women’s Way May Provide a Way to Pay.

When Marleen Stammen’s husband died, not only had she lost her spouse of nearly 35 years, she also lost her insurance. This made the prospect of maintaining her yearly medical check-ups financially difficult, difficult until Marleen learned about the Women’s Way program.

Marleen used the Women’s Way program to get checked every year for three years. The fourth year, Marleen received her reminder card in the mail but didn’t immediately make the call to make the appointment. A local Women’s Way coordinator followed up the reminder card and Marleen made it to her mammogram. It was that year that Marleen’s mammogram detected a “shadow” that was eventually diagnosed as breast cancer. Marleen was lucky because her cancer was detected early. Early detection is the key to survival rates; Marleen is a cancer survivor. “My doctor gave me a 97 percent chance that I was cured so I guess I can’t get much better than that,” Marleen said.

Today, Marleen is feeling well and doing the things she has always wanted to do. “Now the grass is greener and the sky is bluer and I’m not going to wait to do the things I want to do. I’m so thankful for Women’s Way because I am here and I am appreciating every day I have.”


Elaine Keepseagle

Elaine Keepseagle
Fort Yates, N.D.

Because Other People Depend on Us.

Elaine Keepseagle, an elder with the Standing Rock Sioux nation, tells women that if they are afraid or embarrassed to get regular mammograms or Pap tests, she will go with them. “You have to feel good inside; you have to be healthy to help others. If you are scared or don’t understand or if you need someone to go with you, I will go,” Elaine said.

Elaine is a volunteer and an enrollee with the Women’s Way program. She first enrolled in the Women’s Way program in 1997. She understands why some women don’t seek regular screenings because she used to be one. “A long time ago, I used to be ashamed to come in because the doctors were male. I also heard that mammograms hurt. It took me a while to know that it didn’t matter if the doctor was a man or a woman because they are professionals and they are there to help us,” Elaine said. She also commented that the mammograms didn’t hurt bad like she had heard.

Elaine urges women to use the Women’s Way program to help pay for yearly screenings. “Women’s Way is a wonderful program. We have caring people who help us understand. They walk us through the screenings. Get your yearly screenings because your health depends on it. We have children and grandchildren who depend on us and we can’t help them if we’re not healthy,” Elaine said.

Gerry Hass

Gerry Haas
Elgin, N.D.

Make Time to Get Checked.

Gerry Haas and her husband raised three children on a family farm outside of Elgin, N.D., and look forward to cherishing grandchildren there. Gerry has ridden the financial and emotional rollercoaster that often comes with working your own farm. Working part-time off the farm and caring for the farm and the family left Gerry with very little time to take care of herself. She skipped getting regular health screenings. “I was too busy with the farm and the kids to even think about myself,” Gerry said. “ Besides, we had big medical bills already from the premature birth of our twin boys and I couldn’t afford to get checked.”

For 17 years, Gerry missed her yearly Pap tests and pelvic exams. Finally in April of 1999, a physician’s assistant told her about the Women’s Way program and Gerry enrolled and got screened. Gerry’s Pap results showed a problem. Gerry went to Bismarck for a biopsy, and stage-four cervical cancer was diagnosed. The doctors performed a hysterectomy and Gerry’s health prediction was good. "I thank God for Women’s Way, and for my faith in the Lord," said Gerry.  "They caught it in time."

Today, Gerry works two part-time jobs and helps her husband with the farm. She also makes sure to re-enroll in Women’s Way every year so she can get checked. Although working the family farm can be difficult, Gerry wouldn’t change a thing. “With the farming sector the way it is, it isn’t easy, but what we do and produce is important and my husband’s heart is here. Plus, a farm is the best place to raise kids, and I don’t mean to brag but, I have good kids. I thank God that I was here to help raise them. I think our reward for the hard work is for us to be a happy grandma and grandpa,” Gerry said.

Marsha Blueshield

Marsha Blueshield
Fort Totten, N.D.

Pride for Her People Prompts Nurse to Spread Screening Awareness

If you are female and you are near you will probably have Marsha Blueshield bending your ear. Marsha, a nurse for 25 years with the Spirit Lake Tribe, knows how important breast and cervical cancer screenings are. She takes every opportunity to talk about them. “I’ve had several members of my family who have died from breast and cervical cancer. I have four sisters and my mom and I never let up on them to get in and get checked,” Marsha said. “They get a little tired of me, but I never let up. I go for it!”

As a mother of three, a grandmother of four, and an elder with the Spirit Lake Sioux Nation, Marsha knows that taking care of herself is important to those around her. Part of taking care of herself is making sure she gets regular mammograms and Pap tests. As a traveling nurse for the Spirit Lake Tribe Health Tracks program, Marsha has the opportunity to meet and encourage women to take time for regular breast and cervical cancer screenings. “A lot of people think we get all of our health care and dental paid for, but it isn’t true. I have insurance, but if I need to go to any other clinic than Fort Totten, then I have to pay for it myself,” Marsha said. “I think Women’s Way is wonderful. I’ve seen what Women’s Way can do. I’ve seen what misery cancer can cause, and I want everyone to get screened,” Marsha said.

Marsha understands that some Native women don’t get screened because they don’t like to see male doctors. Marsha believes so strongly in regular mammograms and Pap tests, she recently told a friend that she needed to get screened despite her embarrassment. “The good cells could be being gobbled up by the cancer cells and you are saying you’re too embarrassed? I asked her, ‘Are you going to deprive your children and grandchildren of your love because you are too embarrassed?” Marsha said. Her friend went in for her screenings.