Pam Sheppard and Ellen Ambrose have something in common. "I was diagnosed three years ago," Ambrose said.
They both had breast cancer. Neither had health insurance. "I woke up morning and was doing my own self exams, because I don't have insurance so I did my own self exams and found a lump," Ambrose said. That was three years ago.
Ambrose and Sheppard also have something else in common. The two both found free care through a program called Every Woman's Life. Federal funding that comes through the Virginia State Health Department pays for the program. Carilion Clinic administers it.
Pam Sheppard said the program was invaluable to her care. "All the doctors appointments were set up. I didn't have to do anything except for go," Sheppard said.
"They were my angels. I didn't have to worry about anything else financially," Ambrose said. "So all I had to do was heal."
The Every Woman's Life Program doesn't just help women with care after diagnosis, it also provides free exams for women who qualify. Those exams include a mammogram to screen for breast cancer and a pap test to detect signs of cervical cancer .
"It is an overwhelming number of people that we enroll," said Kathy Woman who is a nurse care manager at Every Woman's Life Program. "We helped over 700 clients last year."
As a two time breast cancer survivor, Womack understands what some of the women are dealing with. "When I tell them I understand the level of anxiety you have about waiting for test results or about the pending biopsy about the diagnosis and waiting to see about that consult appointment with the surgeon, I know how difficult it is to wait."
Ambrose says she wishes she'd known earlier that financial help was out there. "If I would have know I probably would have gotten a mammogram sooner." Womack said.
Both Ambrose and Sheppard also have a message for other women. "I'm a hair dresser so the women I come across, I tell everybody about them just in case their like me and are afraid to go because of the financial part," Ambrose said.
"Don't be scared and just go. There are places out there that will help you if you can't afford it," said Sheppard.
You can also call (540) 224-4964, (540) 985-8196 or 1-(866) 395-4968 to find out if you quality for a free mammogram or a free pap test.