PERU - When many were spreading the word about Breast Cancer Awareness Month last October, Heidi Williams was given words that took her by surprise.
"That's when I was diagnosed with breast cancer," she said.
Through a free preventative screening provided by the New York State Cancer Services Program of Clinton County, Williams was found to have "ductal carcinoma in situ," one of the most common types of noninvasive breast cancer. The cancer, which starts inside the milk ducts, is considered noninvasive because it hasn't yet spread to any surrounding breast tissue. However, in a matter of weeks, when Williams was undergoing a bilateral mastectomy to stave off the cancer, the seemingly nonlife-threatening condition began to take a more serious turn.
"The difference with mine is when I did my surgery in December, they actually found stage one invasive cancer in the pathology report that they had to do," she said.
Williams began chemotherapy following her surgery in order to eradicate the disease, and is currently waiting to begin her third of four rounds of the treatment. So far, Williams said her body seems to be reacting relatively well to the chemotherapy. "It does make you tired, though," she said. "It's really tough."
Williams' condition has left her unable to return to her job as a substitute teacher for the time being, which she had been doing for a little more than six months after she graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh last May.
"I've had to put all that on hold because, physically, I'm not strong enough. I don't have the stamina," said Williams, who had been substituting in the Peru, Saranac, AuSable Valley and Northern Adirondack central school districts.
Though Williams is on the road to recovery, the 36-year-old said she believes she wouldn't be in as good a situation as she is if not for the New York State Cancer Services Program of Clinton County.