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Mammograms save lives

Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Boaz woman credits dedication to mammograms for surviving breast cancer

Three decades of annual scans

As regular as Christmas, Angie Williams has trekked to Marshall Medical South for her annual mammogram. Every single year for three decades. Only one of those 30 visits has turned out bad.

“2001 is when my problem started,” she remembered.

Williams was running a cash register at the old VF Outlet in Boaz when she got the bad news over the phone. A radiologist had seen something suspicious on her scan. She needed to return to the hospital for an ultrasound. That led to a biopsy. Williams wasn’t worried at all.

“Because the doctor said he was 99.9 percent sure it was fine, I hadn’t given it a second thought,” she said.

Once again at work, Williams heard more bad news over the phone. There was a spot in her right breast that would require surgery. She started crying, thinking of the sister-in-law she had just lost to breast cancer. Assured it wasn’t urgent, Williams still asked if she could have the lumpectomy the following day. She did. Doctors removed a 3-centimeter lump, which she was told was about the size of a black-eyed pea.

Because it was the Christmas season, Williams wanted to salvage the holiday. Her mother also had been through a surgery so the family became a little closer that year.

“We enjoyed Christmas more than ever because we were all there,” she recalled.

Radiation treatments started at the end of the year. Unfortunately more bad news was coming. Williams was laid off from her job Dec. 30. She lost her health insurance along with her paycheck.

“I needed a job right then,” she said.

Williams eventually went to work at a new Dollar General store in Douglas, where she became assistant manager. She left there for better benefits as a custodian in Douglas High School, where she stayed until retirement in 2017.

The whole unfortunate episode worked out fine, Williams said as she looks back.

“I haven’t had a problem in the 19 years since,” she said. “And I haven’t missed a mammogram.”

At 71, Williams considers her annual scan just as important as when she started at age 40.

“I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t have a mammogram every year,” she said. “I’ve been going for 30 years. I’ve never missed one. It’s just something I always did.”

Williams also appreciates the closeness she feels with the person doing her mammograms. Marlana Horton has worked as a mammographer at Marshall South for 20 years. She said it makes a difference when you see the same faces year after year. When Williams went for her most recent scan, the two recalled the visit in 2001 when breast cancer was found. Horton said her patient’s 30 years of dedication to getting her annual test is amazing.

“Oh what a testimony she has,” Horton said. “If it had not been for having her mammogram, she may not be here today. This is why we do what we do - for ladies to have more birthdays and holidays and get-togethers with the people they love, and that love them.”

Williams is very thankful for the path her journey took. 

“The Lord blessed me,” she said. “My husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary this year. I feel like God was in the whole matter.”