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Grand Forks, ND
Mother’s Diagnosis Was A
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.
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,”
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
services through her job at a local church. She says all
women should get checked as a boost to self-esteem.
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.
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.
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,”
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.