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Buddy Check May 2010: Janice Szczechowicz's Story

A Luzerne County teacher continued with breast self-exams, even after a mammogram showed nothing out of the ordinary.&nbsp; She credits her monthly ritual, and what's behind Buddy Check, with saving her life.<BR>

DALLAS, LUZERNE COUNTY -- Janice Szczechowicz couldn't be happier to be in the classroom. 

The science teacher at Gate of Heaven Middle School was gone for more than four months, after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her annual mammogram last August showed nothing.

"And then in September, when I was doing a self-exam, I found out what I thought was one," said Janice.

A second mammogram didn't show that lump.  It took an ultrasound to discover Janice had breast cancer.  She recalls hearing the news from her doctor.

"I immediately fainted, because I was so afraid."

Janice took a leave of absence from teaching, starting in December for her lumpectomy.  Students sent Christmas cards to her home.

"They sent all kinds of different messages.  We'd talk about sports themes, about the boys," laughed Janice. "They know I like the Yankees, so they'd draw Yankees symbols on the trees. They told me how much they missed me."

She knew the staff and students were sending their prayers and enlisted others to pray for her recovery, too.  One even gave her a bracelet with the words "hope, dream, believe."  

Janice's chemotherapy treatments lasted from January through April, and she came back to school this month.

"I couldn't wait to get back in the classroom," said Janice, "because it felt like normal again."

Janice started radiation treatments in mid-May and goes daily after school.  She considers herself lucky to have continued with her breast self-exam, just days after a mammogram showed nothing.

"I keep telling everyone and stressing to everyone how important it is to know your body and examine yourself," said Janice.

And that's what Buddy Check is all about.

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