Fear/stubbornness kept her from getting routine health screenings

Danielle Crowell with her dog Cubby. Crowell was diagnosed with cervical cancer but is now cancer free. (Photo courtesy Danielle Crowell.)

By Amanda Ubongen/MDH

Throughout our lifetime we experience different seasons, some of which test our resiliency. For Danielle Crowell, the past few months have been a whirlwind of a journey. With a recent cervical cancer diagnosis, Danielle has a compelling story and a powerful message to share. Her hope is that her story will encourage others to keep up to date on health screenings.

Danielle Crowell was born in Fargo, North Dakota. Her mother is of Norwegian descent, and father was White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Danielle was the second of three daughters. At the age of four, Danielle’s family relocated to Crookston, Minnesota, a place she still calls home. Crookston provided a wonderful environment for Danielle to explore her childhood interests. She swam in lakes and spent time in nature observing the beautiful scenery and wildlife.

Today, Danielle is still a nature lover. She and her partner of 12 years, Jeffrey, an avid fisherman, enjoy spending time together in the outdoors fishing and hiking. Wherever they go, Cubby, their smart and adventurous Jack Russell-mix, is along for the ride. Danielle’s other hobbies include reading mystery novels, watching a good comedy, cooking her specialty soups and chilis, and baking scrumptious cookies for her nieces and nephews.
Apart from her hobbies and leisure time, Danielle also finds great meaning in her work.

For the past eight years she has cared for adults with physical and cognitive disabilities in a group home setting. “It’s very rewarding,” says Danielle. “We all are one accident away from becoming a client ourselves. If I were in the same situation, I would want someone to do a good job caring for me.” Her compassion and consideration for others runs deep. In hopes of reaching others, Danielle has courageously opened up about her cancer diagnosis that occurred only a few short months ago.

Danielle estimates that it had been 25 years since her last Pap smear. She believes it was a combination of fear and stubbornness that prevented her from keeping up with routine health screenings. Additionally, Danielle encountered an access barrier in 2019 after losing her Medicaid coverage. The loss of medical coverage came after she received a raise from her employer.

Fortunately, due to her American Indian heritage, Danielle learned that she was eligible to receive health services through White Earth Health, a partner of the Sage Screening Program, which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening to eligible women. Through Sage, Danielle received her Pap smear and mammogram free of charge. Danielle was relieved that her mammogram result came back normal; however, her Pap smear was abnormal and required additional tests and imaging.

Danielle unfortunately received life-changing news – the tests had revealed that she had cervical cancer. Having lost her father to bone cancer in 2014, this was not the first time that cancer had touched Danielle’s life. Compounding the situation, her imaging tests also revealed a tumor and cluster of cysts on her liver.

Thankfully her doctors acted quickly. Luckily for Danielle both the cervical and non-cancerous tumor/cysts on her liver were able to be surgically removed in just one procedure. The surgery was a complete and total success.

Danielle is now cancer free, and her doctors will continue to monitor her overall health and provide support and assistance if needed. Two months post-surgery, Danielle reports, “Feeling better now than I have in years.” She has been on medical leave since mid-October and is feeling so good that she cannot wait to go back to work to connect with her clients, and once again, be a wonderfully compassionate and empathetic caregiver.

Danielle’s story provides hope for her and others. She is focused on creating memorable moments with her loved ones. She finds great joy in spending time with friends and family to experience good food and conversation, while reminiscing over old photographs.

When asked how this experience has changed her and those close to her, she reports “This all happened so fast that we didn’t have time to dwell. But it makes us appreciate everything more.” The message that Danielle wants to share with others is clear. “Fight your fear and go to the doctor, ladies. The longer you put it off, the worse it could get. Take advantage of programs like Sage if you qualify, it could save your life.”

Danielle’s cancer journey and intervention represent a season in her life. Now being cancer free post-surgery, thankfully her future is wide open. Finding a sense of purpose in adversity can indeed be healing. Danielle hopes that her testimony will also serve as a powerful call to action to ultimately help save lives.

Sage Programs offer free breast and cervical cancer screening and $20 rewards. For info, visit: www.mnsage.com.