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Area lawmaker talks about her experience with breast cancer

September 26, 1997

By KATE COLEMAN

Staff Writer

Thursday, Oct. 1, marks the beginning of the annual observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It also is the first anniversary of the day Del. Louise V. Snodgrass was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Snodgrass, a Republican who represents voters in Frederick and Washington counties, was preparing to speak about breast cancer awareness to Women in the Wind, the local chapter of a women's motorcycle association.The group's 1997 motorcycle rally raised $1,900 in Frederick County, bringing the statewide total to $8,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

In preparing her program, Snodgrass, 55, realized she was more than a year overdue for her annual mammogram. Not wanting to preach what she was late in practicing, she scheduled the mammogram.

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It revealed a lump, which a biopsy showed tobe cancerous. Snodgrass calls her speaking engagement a lifesaver.

She had surgery in November. She was able to choose a lumpectomy - the removal of the cancerous lump rather than the whole breast as in a mastectomy. The lymph node dissection revealed no additional cancer.

Snodgrass' treatment included 33 sessions of radiation - five days a week. It was not easy, Snodgrass says. Her breast was burned.

She now is cancer free.

Snodgrass said she always has talked about breast cancer awareness, but she's even more outspoken since her experience with the disease.

She talked publicly about her cancer for the first time last January while testifying before the Senate Finance Committeein support of proposed legislation that would give mastectomy patients a choice about being released from hospitals the same day as the surgery. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, did not pass.

Snodgrass has done monthly breast self-exams and had annual examinations by her doctor as well as annual mammograms. She believes women are afraid of what they might find or don't know what to feel for in a breast self-exam.

"It just blows my mind. This is 1997," she said.

She believes women must pursue all avenues of early detection.

"You can't do just one thing," she said.

Women need to take responsibility for scheduling their mammograms, Snodgrass believes. You shouldn't wait for a doctor to tell you what to do.

Women also need to talk about breast cancer, Snodgrass says.

"It's such a scary thing."

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