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Teacher battling cancer could use a boost

Upcoming benefit will help with medical bills

Sept. 18, 2013

Menomonee Falls — When Menomonee Falls resident Megann Schnickel turned 36, her doctor pushed her to schedule a mammogram.

Her mom had breast cancer, which put Schnickel at increased risk of getting the disease.

Schnickel is a teacher at Menomonee Falls Children's Community Center. She works there in the mornings and goes to Cardinal Stritch in the evenings where she is earning her bachelor's degree for early childhood education. She currently has her associate's degree.

With two children and a husband at home, finding time was a challenge.

After postponing it, she scheduled her mammogram in July. Schnickel came very close to canceling that appointment — a move that could have changed her life dramatically.

At the end of May, Schnickel was told that Cardinal Stritch was canceling the insurance she was using. That meant, her insurance was going to end July 31. Her husband recently started his own business and is not able to offer group insurance because of the high costs. Therefore, Schnickel had to look elsewhere for coverage.

After verifying that her school insurance would cover her mammogram appointment in July, Schnickel decided to go.

Difficult decisions

Schnickel quickly found herself in a race with insurance.

The mammogram revealed calcifications in her right breast. A biopsy was needed so doctors could get a closer look.

"I was panicking especially knowing I wasn't going to have insurance after (July) 31," Schnickel said.

The doctor managed to squeeze in a biopsy before her insurance coverage ended. On July 26, six days before her insurance ran out, Schnickel was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I had already applied for other insurance but because I had this diagnosis there wasn't going to be anyone that was going to accept me for insurance," she said. "I told people it's not even the cancer that scares me, it's how is this going to financially affect my family. It was hard to decide what to worry about the most at that point."

Schnickel faced the cancer head on. Determined to make it to the first day of classes at Cardinal Stritch and her first day teaching at the Children's Community Center, she scheduled a double mastectomy for Aug. 15.

She is now 99.9 percent cured of breast cancer, saying she is blessed it didn't spread to her lymph nodes. She will most likely begin taking Tamoxifen, a hormone treatment that is used to make sure the cancer does not spread.

Fundraiser set

Though her battle against breast cancer is almost over, her struggle against medical bills is just beginning.

"It's never going to be the perfect time to get cancer, but you have to go get a mammogram," she said. "Whether you have insurance or not, you have to face fit."

To help offset her medical bills, Schnickel's friends have scheduled a fundraiser from 3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Lucky Joe's Tiki Room, 196 S. Second St., in Milwaukee. There will be a silent auction, raffle and bake sale. Children are welcome between 3 and 5 p.m.

"Cancer doesn't wait and she didn't want to take any chances," Event Organizer Danielle Bernard said. "Some of her family and friends wanted to help and came together to help throw a benefit for her."

Bernard said they are still looking for silent auction items. To donate or for information on the event, call Bernard at (414) 840-3394 or email her at daniellembernard@gmail.com.

She still has to undergo reconstruction surgery. The tissue expanders that prepare women's breasts for reconstruction surgery make it hard for her to breathe. Yet, she continues to stay positive in spite of it all and was there to greet her new students Aug. 26 for their first day of school.

"I'm going to take it one step at a time," she said. "It's most important for me to continue with school and to continue my job because if I can do those two things, eventually, I will be able to get ahead."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Fight against breast cancer fundraiser

WHEN: 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Lucky Joe's Tiki Room, 196 S. Second St., Milwaukee

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