KANSAS CITY, Mo. — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A dynamic duo who met while going through treatment at St. Luke’s Health System is encouraging other people to get checked.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in 2022, it’s estimated that there will be over 287,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with more than 51,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

Two strangers facing the biggest battles of their lives at St. Luke’s come out on the other side stronger and as best friends.

“We were meant to meet each other whether it was this awful thing that brought us together,” breast cancer survivor Melanie Schrader said.

An unbreakable bond formed while these two women battled breast cancer.

Both were diagnosed in 2019.

Schrader just got back from the lake and thought she had a bug bite. Afte the lump didn’t go away, Schrader got it checked by a doctor.

“He told me the news that I had breast cancer,” Schrader said.

Jill Talbot didn’t have a lump, but she did have severe pain in her left breast, which is not usually a sign of breast cancer. The pain had continued for about a month, and she decided to get it checked, as well.

The 36-year-old does get routine exams, but this time doctors suggested a mammogram. Test results revealed she had stage three breast cancer.

The news came one day before her daughter’s 10th birthday.

“Of course, you think morbidly, you think, I can’t die, I have two young children, I want to see them graduate, I want to see them get married,” Talbot said.

St. Luke’s doctors jumped on both cases and the women started a dozen or more rounds of chemo. Every other Friday Talbot said they tackled the “red devil”.

“There’s days I was on my bathroom floor wondering if it was all worth it,” Talbot said.

In the hardest moments, Talbot found a new friend to lean on in this fight. So did Schrader.

“When I met Jill,” Shrader said, “It relieved a lot of stress.”

During treatment, Talbot saw a cute ponytail and ball cap bopping down the hospital hallway. Neither of them likes to wear wigs or scarves.

“She had this awesome hat with a hair extension. it looked so cool,” Talbot said. “I was hoping she buys it on amazon because that’s easy.”

Schrader told Talbot her mom made it. A few weeks later, Talbot had one, too.

Since then, they’ve celebrated several milestones together — including their last round of chemo. They take trips together – sometimes with the family – and recently they celebrated two years of being cancer free in Florida.

“God put this person in my life for a reason,” Talbot said. “Because He knew I needed her.”

They encourage people to get checked for breast cancer.

“Don’t say oh, this can wait because it can’t,” Schrader said.

She hope others will be open to friendships in all places because you never know who you’ll find.

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