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Nursing professor says don't you dare skip that breast self exam

Roz LaVant is speaking from experience. No breast cancer in her family, but she got it herself.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Roz LaVant says her relatives did the research and they discovered nobody in their family ever had breast cancer, until now.

Roz found a hard lump in her breast. Turns out she had three cancerous tumors.  Her doctor, she says, told her, "One of those little monsters was about to penetrate, but we caught it early."

It was enough to avoid dealing with cancer that would have metastasized out of her breast and become much more difficult to treat.

LaVant graduated nursing school in Jacksonville in 1973.  She can't believe she's been a nurse for almost half a century now.

Credit: Roz LaVant as a young nurse

That's many years of helping other folks.  And now she's a professor at Concorde Career Institute in Jacksonville teaching nursing students how to do self exams.

Her suggestion is to check in the shower.  And remember to feel up under your arms, too. 

Credit: Roz LaVant's mammogram -- white is cancer

LaVant began following Buddy Check at the beginning, more than 25 years ago.  She carried the Buddy Check kits in her car to hand out to church groups and other women's get-togethers.

She and her niece have been Buddies for years.  And now Lavant is telling how she found that hard lump in her breast and it saved her life. She says because there was no pain, "I could have easily ignored that."

But she knew better.

"It felt like an acorn or a pearl," she says.

Credit: Roz LaVant's Grandma Julia

Pearls, to her, symbolize strength. They remind her of her Grandma Julia. "My grandmother had those on every Sunday when she went to church; she had on one strand of pearls."

She says her prayer has been, "Give me strength as I go through this."

"I am an example that we had no family history. So you never know. Don't fear. Take fear away because fear keeps you in the dark," she says. 

Credit: Roz LaVant survivor

If you would like a free Buddy Check kit, just call Baptist Health at 904-202-CARE.  The kit will be mailed to you at no charge.

If Buddy Check has helped you find your breast cancer, please email Buddy Check creator, Jeannie Blaylock:  jblaylock@firstcoastnews.com