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Buddy Check 9: 5-Word Question May Have Saved State Farm Agent's Life

6:14 AM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It's the 9th of the month. Time to call your Buddies and remind them to do as you do:

  • Perform monthly breast self exams.
  • Schedule a mammogram if you're over 40.
  • Remember to make an appointment for a yearly clinical exam with a doctor or nurse practitioner because early detection saves lives.

So, who is a Buddy? A Buddy can be a relative, spouse, co-worker, even a complete stranger.

Mary Shanholtzer is on her way to meet her Buddy: Marie Kissinger, from Radiology Imaging in Waldorf, MD.

Upon seeing her, Marie tells Mary, "I wanted to see how you were doing, but I was afraid to call."

"Well, you would have heard wonderful news and I owe it all to you," replies Mary.

Mary had never laid eyes on her "new best friend" until now. But, she has no doubt that her Buddy helped save her life. It all began with a phone call last October.

Marie Kissinger tells us, "I called to get a quote on my car."

By chance, Mary, a State Farm agent, was on the other end of the line. A five-word question Marie asked her proved to be a lifesaver:
"Have you had your mammogram?"

Mary recalls, "I hated to confess I was so far behind. It would have been 3 years in December."

And the time just slipped by.

"I knew you were supposed to but there's no cancer in my family history so I figured I was at very low risk," admits Mary.

Like every good Buddy, even to a stranger, Marie followed up two weeks later with another phone call.

"I guarantee you that had I not picked up that phone that second time I have no doubt that I would NOT have that mammogram," says Mary. 

But it was good she did. The mammogram spotted a lesion neither Mary nor her doctor could have felt with a manual exam. The diagnosis: malignant, invasive cancer with a growth rate of high moderate.

Mary remembers, "I never thought I would hear those words."

She adds, "It was quite a shock, but right away I'm thinking, 'my God---Marie. I did this only because of Marie.'"

Thanks to Marie, finding the cancer, was part ONE of Mary's miracle. The second was how her cancer was treated. Because the tumor was small, Mary had a lumpectomy. Since it was under 1 centimeter, instead of lengthy radiation sessions, she was a eligible for a state of the art treatment called IORT, Intraoperative Radiation Therapy.

Dr. Shawna Wiley explains, "She was able to get her entire radiation treatment with one trip to the O-R after the lumpectomy, one dose and she was done."

Mary now tells us, "It was a mammogram that made this possible and it was Marie who made all of this possible."

As for Marie, she says, "I am glad everything worked out."

Mary says Marie has influenced her to take action, "Since then, I've adopted her approach and I ask everybody, 'have you had your mammogram?'"