Judge credits early detection from more serious cancer diagnosis.

September 21, 2015
Judge Susan Sniegowski

Judge Susan Sniegowski

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — In early June of this year, Judge Susan Sniegowski went to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center for a routine mammogram. The next day, she received a call that a mass had been discovered and that she needed to come back for a biopsy.

Sniegowski, 47, who began serving as 51st Circuit Court judge in January, was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as DCIS, the most common type of noninvasive, non life-threatening form of breast cancer.

“Within a week, I had surgery to remove the mass,” Sniegowski said. Since that time she has been traveling to Muskegon for daily radiation treatments, which recently ended. She said she would have her treatments early in the morning and then return to work a full work day, followed by activities with her 7-year-old son.

“It’s strange because I don’t really feel sick and I hate saying that I’m sick. What I’m going through is nothing compared to what other people have gone through with their cancer diagnosis,” she said. “It’s even strange to say that is what I have.”

Sniegowski said the oncologist has described her condition as cancer but technically it’s a “pre-cancer.”

“There’s some debate about whether it’s cancer or not. But, if it’s not taken care of it can spread. The doctors have told me that waiting even another six months could have meant the cancer might have spread to other parts of my body.”

While she doesn’t consider her illness to be as severe as many others, Sniegowski said she recognizes that early detection is to be credited for preventing the disease from being more serious.

She said the discovery of cancer was a surprise. “I have no family history of breast cancer,” she said. “It didn’t even cross my mind that I would have it. It was quite a shock. WHen I got the phone call that I had to go in for a second mammogram, that was not was not what I was expecting.”

Sniegowski praised the staff at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center and also the staff at Mercy Health Partner’s Johnson Cancer Center in Muskegon. She said she has also been thankful for the support she has gotten.

“What’s really been amazing is the amount of support that people have offered. There has been a lot of emotional support but also a large amount of people who have called to ask what they could do to help.”

She said she can’t express how important early detection is.

“Don’t be afraid to get the mammogram,” she said. “What I thought about breast cancer is very different than what I know now, in my own personal story. I am one of the lucky ones and I attribute it to early detection.”

In addition to early detection, she also attributes remaining active, diet and exercise as reasons why she hasn’t felt much sickness. “I mostly feel tired,” she said. “That hasn’t hindered my ability to do my job, but there’s still a level of tiredness.”

October is breast cancer awareness month. For more information visit websites for American Cancer Society or National Breast Cancer Foundation.