BILLINGS – Hairstylist Christal Duke loves her career of 20-plus years.
She said the best part is making people feel good about themselves.
It is a sentiment she knows is important after discovering health issues of her own.
Duke, 50, said the discovery would not have been possible without the Billings Clinic Women’s Wellness Fund, which offers free screenings to women who are uninsured and underinsured.
“I have a couple of clients, and they work at Billings Clinic, and they’re the ones that informed me about it. Being self-employed, it’s hard to find good insurance that covers stuff, and affordable,” Duke said.
She received screenings over a span of about five years and even got her first mammogram through the program.
Her doctors diagnosed her with high cholesterol and aggressive breast cancer.
“Luckily, they found my cancer, and then the next year I had insurance, so it was just like divine timing,” Duke said.
Diagnosed Dec. 19, 2019, Duke still had two weeks until her health insurance plan kicked in at the start of the new year.
Through her new coverage, she continued with chemotherapy and radiation.
“It was about August when I finally was done with everything. In December I went and had another mammogram and CT scan, and everything was great. So, I’m doing fabulous, healthy, cancer-free at the moment,” she said.
Duke learned about the importance of screenings through personal heartache at a young age.
She lost her mom to colon cancer.
“She was opposite and didn’t go to the doctor. So, preventative, that’s why I’m always on my clients, get checked. Preventative is everything. If they wouldn’t have found this, this year, and it was another year, it would’ve been a whole different situation for me,” Duke said.
Funding for the Women’s Wellness Fund comes in part, from donations made by the Montana Women’s Run.
As of 2019, the race has donated more than $1.36 million to local programs for women.
“I mean honestly, they saved my life, because I wouldn’t have probably caught it early enough, and for that, I’m forever grateful,” Duke said.
To get signed up for the Montana Women’s Run and change your life, along with others, visit their website by clicking here.
And to learn more about the Women’s Wellness Fund, click here.