Deirdra’s Story: What If? Breast Cancer Survivor Can’t Stop Wondering

Deirdra Williams gets emotional thinking about what could have been. What if she had kept her health low on her priority list? What if she had waited longer to get a mammogram? What if she hadn’t learned about the resources available to cover her expenses?

In fall 2020, after putting it off for three years, Deirdra, 56, decided she would schedule a mammogram. “I used to get one every year, but then my career changed and I didn’t have insurance to pay for it,” she recalls. “But in October, with or without insurance, I decided I needed to do this for me. Once I did, I felt like everything started working in my favor.”

Before scheduling her mammogram, Deirdra learned about the Norma J. Ross Memorial Foundation, which advocates for early detection of breast cancer. Women with income or insurance barriers are referred by the foundation to resources like the Premier Community Health voucher program and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project to help cover costs. Women may choose the screening mammogram location most convenient for them, including any Premier Health hospital or breast imaging center, the mobile mammography coach, and other health care locations throughout the region.   

Deirdra would quickly discover just how valuable these resources could be.

After getting her mammogram at Premier Health’s mobile mammography coach, which was parked at Mercedes-Benz of Centerville that day, Deirdra was asked to return for a second one, this time at Miami Valley Hospital South. Both mammograms used Genius™ 3D Mammography™ that takes multiple images of breast tissue, making it easier for breast cancer to be detected.

“Being asked to return for a repeat mammogram had never happened to me before. I wasn’t worried. But then they wanted to do a needle biopsy, and afterwards, the look on the doctor’s face told me something may be wrong.” Fortunately, Deirdra’s daughter, Desiree, was with her for a follow-up surgical biopsy that led to the diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ, which means that cancer cells were lining the milk ducts of her breast. “I was confused, numb, speechless,” says Deirdra.

Deirdra’s cancer was stage zero, and she didn’t require surgery. But she did endure 25 radiation treatments (five days a week for five weeks) to ensure the cancer was destroyed. She now takes a daily pill — a hormone blocker — and will do so for five years to keep the cancer from returning. She is incredibly grateful that all treatment expenses have been paid by a form of coverage extended to eligible participants of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project. Her voice catches when she says, “I just keep wondering how things would have been different if I had put off the mammogram even longer, and if I didn’t have these resources to pay for everything.”

Deirdra’s not certain of her family history for breast cancer. Although her grandmother died from breast cancer when she was in her 80s, Deirdra’s mother died at age 40. “Would she have developed breast cancer had she not died so young? We don’t know.” But family history or not, and regardless of age, Deirdra knows it’s possible to get breast cancer. That’s why she’s so passionate in her plea: “If you have a mother, aunt, daughter, wife, or friend, encourage them to get their yearly mammogram. Early detection can make a world of difference.”

If you live in Southwest Ohio and don’t have insurance coverage, you may be eligible for a free mammogram or other women’s health services. Call (866) 838-8973(866) 838-8973 to see if you qualify.


Contact Us

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.