By Jaimie Schmitz
In 2000, a healthy Jill Bates had just switched from being a school nurse at Neligh-Oakdale to another position in the service unit. After teaching self-breast exams to high school students for 13 years, she thought she knew it all.
But during her first mammogram, she got a surprise.
“They thought they saw something on the first one (mammogram),” Bates said. “But it turned out to be okay, so I went on with life.”
Shortly after, she had another routine mammogram done, and was asked to come back again for a second one.
“I thought ‘I’ve done this before, it will be fine.’ And then I got a call that said, ‘You need a biopsy.’ ”
At the time, Bates had no symptoms of cancer and the research she found said the micro-calcifications were benign in most cases.
“That (the biopsy) was on a Wednesday morning, and on Tuesday afternoon I got a call at work that I had cancer.”
Bates explains that in her case, the mammogram is what caught the cancer.
“Whether you have symptoms or not. Some women find a lump or they have discharge, or they have pain. I had none of those symptoms. I had no history of breast cancer in my family, and yet I got that diagnosis.”
A year later, Bates had gone through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. Although her battle with cancer was over, the disease still was in her life.
Her sister was later diagnosed with breast cancer, and unlike Bates, lost her battle.
Bates’ mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer, but she was able to beat it.
Bates says that cancer didn’t run in the family, so the three diagnoses were all surprises. But, this goes to show the necessity of mammograms and testing.
“Do it every year. It’s uncomfortable, we hate it, but it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
After over a decade of being cancer free, Bates has some advice for women.
“Find a doctor that you like and trust. I would say willingly accept all the kindness and help from your friends and family.”
Bates has supported cancer research and participated in Relay For Life and Susan G. Komen walks. She says that the feeling she gets around others there, is like no other.
“When you take that survivor lap and people are applauding, it just get to your heart. It is just really special,” she said.