Laboratory Coordinator, Three-Time Cancer Survivor Credits BayCare for Lifesaving Care

June 21, 2024
A middle-aged woman smiles for a photo outdoors while wearing black scrubs with the words "BayCare Laboratories" stitched on them. The woman is standing in front of some shrubs, outside of an office building.
BayCare Laboratory Coordinator Donna Williams, a three-time cancer survivor who received extraordinary care at BayCare, helps inspire other cancer patients she meets at BayCare Laboratories (Riverview).


Donna Williams, a BayCare laboratory coordinator, credits BayCare for saving her life by providing extraordinary care following her lung cancer diagnosis in 2022. Today, she hopes her story as a three-time cancer survivor helps inspire some of the patients who walk through her doors at BayCare Laboratories (Riverview). 

In her late 20s, Williams was a single mother of four working as a bartender and hotel housekeeper to make ends meet. She got her first job in health care as a phlebotomist at South Florida Baptist Hospital, not knowing the long road that lay ahead of her as a patient. 

Her first cancer diagnosis, cervical cancer, came in 1997, and it led to a hysterectomy. A decade later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. 

Then, in 2022, she became worried her bad cough could be cancer. Sheniqua Stevenson, APRN, a nurse practitioner, and Williams’ primary care provider with BayCare Medical Group, quickly ordered a CT scan of Williams’ lungs, based on her medical history. 

“They found an eight-centimeter mass on my right lung,” said Williams. “It was stage three lung cancer, and my providers then wanted to move very quickly to address it.” 

As Stevenson talked with Williams about next steps, she mentioned one of BayCare’s nurse navigator programs for lung cancer patients, which is available to patients when their scans indicate there is an abnormality that meets certain criteria. Nurse navigators can assist patients with expedited pulmonology appointments and lung cancer care, helping guide them through each step of the process. 

Williams connected with the nurse navigator, and within just a few weeks, she underwent a successful surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital, performed by Dr. Jonathan Waxman. Three months of chemotherapy and radiation followed at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South. 

“The care I received across BayCare was extraordinary. And my lab team made sure to be there for me when they could. It’s part of what makes it easy to love BayCare: People here are like family,” said Williams. “Team members from my facility even met me on the last day of my radiation treatment to fill my car with food donations. There were lots of tears and hugs. I was so grateful.” 

Today, Williams’ prognosis is good, and from time to time, her fellow BayCare Laboratory team members ask if she is willing to share her survivor story with lab patients recently diagnosed with cancer. 

“I tell them to stay positive, that technology has come a long way, and that you’ve got to stick around for the things in life worth living for,” said Williams. “For me, that was my four kids and my many grandchildren. I had to stay focused on what I wanted for my life and not look back.” 

“Donna’s resilience and leadership inspire everyone at our lab,” said Lab Medical Assistant Rikelma Pichardo. “Her experience reminds us of the importance of compassion while delivering excellent patient care.” 

At BayCare Laboratories (Riverview), the growth in the Riverview area is reflected in the steady volume of patients visiting the site each day. 

“It’s really important that we make the time to make the right connection with each patient we see,” said Williams. “And when I get the chance to tell patients my story, I’m grateful, because I know the very place I work made a huge difference in my health journey. BayCare saved my life by helping me get the screening, detection and expedited care I needed for my lung cancer. And I want patients to know that there’s help — and hope — for them, too.” 

June is National Cancer Survivor’s Month. At BayCare, we are dedicated to helping people survive cancer by providing the latest advancements in medicine in a caring, compassionate and comfortable setting. Learn more about BayCare’s oncology services, pulmonary and respiratory care or BayCare Laboratories (Riverview).  

Featured Video

BayCare Thrives as a Powerful Economic Engine in Florida

Image Gallery

BayCare Podcasts