By Felicia Farnsworth
Many people are afraid of getting a mammogram. They are nervous about the procedure, the outcome, or the fact that it hurts. Mrs. Denise Williams is a breast cancer survivor. She has a strong message for the Bullock County community and asked me to share it.
“Get a mammogram! Men and women need to have a mammogram to detect the early signs of breast cancer,” stated Williams. Breast cancer can not only affect women but men as well.
According to the website, Young Survival Coalition, each year, approximately 70,000 men and women ages 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. Breast cancer is cancer that develops in the breast tissue.
Symptoms include a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple, and changes in the shape or texture of the breast. Mammograms can find or detect breast cancer before you can feel a lump.
Treatments for breast cancer are different depending upon the stage. It may consist of chemotherapy (chemo), radiation, or surgery. Mrs. Williams was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer in April of 2016.
When she was diagnosed, she was forced to retire from teaching Nutrition at Tuskegee University and teaching in Union Springs to focus on her health. She received chemo, which made her suffer from “chemo-brain” or “brain-fog” memory loss. She also had hair loss, brittle or paper-like fingernails and toenails, lack of energy, and fluctuating weight loss and gain.
“Each cancer patient is different in regards to side-effects. Chemotherapy treats everyone differently,” stated Williams. Ultimately, her diagnosis resulted in a mastectomy surgery, in which her right breast was removed in its entirety. “The surgery was vital for my survival. I had tubes on the side of my body draining fluids that had to be measured and recorded for doctors’ purposes,” commented Williams.
“It is vital that women get a yearly mammogram. If you have a family history, you may have to do it every six months. Men should also be screened for breast cancer.” Williams receives her mammograms at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, AL, and Montgomery Cancer Center.
Her last mammogram was this past June. “Everything came back clear, and I’m still in remission.” Williams has been in remission for the previous five years. During her remission, she helped Mrs. Gloria Glaze, an advocate for Breast Cancer in Bullock County, by speaking to the community about the importance of mammograms and yearly physicals.
“I met Mrs. Glaze while I was teaching in Union Springs, and she voiced her concerns about the community not getting their yearly exams. She asked me to speak to them about my survival before, during, and after breast cancer and the health concerns it involves,” stated Williams.
Insurance companies will pay for a specialized bra for women who have had a mastectomy. Another option after a mastectomy is the reconstruction of the breasts, and this surgery may or may not be covered by insurance companies. Some programs will help you get your exams. Don’t hesitate to contact the Bullock County Health Department or your O.B.G.Y.N. for more information.
Williams credits the help of her friends and family for her survival of breast cancer. “I am thankful to be here and for my close friends and family for sticking by me. It is nothing to be ashamed about. Your health and your life are what is important.” Breast cancer patients are fighters.
They are dealing with the fact that they have cancer. It takes a toll on them mentally, physically, and emotionally.
“You can fight this! I’m living proof. You have to keep your faith. You cannot do this alone by any means. Just don’t be afraid to have a mammogram. So what if it hurts? That’s your life!”