Janine McMillion was 29 when she married, entered her third year of law school and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, the Huntington Beach resident is an employment lawyer, whose survival story was the centerpiece of "Check It Out," an early-detection program for youth put on by Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization.
The program was instigated by Adena Kaufman, 34, of Aliso Viejo, compelled to action by the loss of a girlhood friend to breast cancer in 2001. "It's made me grateful to be alive," she said.
The December event for the Bureau of Jewish Education's TALIT students was the first presentation in Orange County by Hadassah, which introduced the program in Texas a decade ago. About 90 girls and their mothers attended the program at Santa Ana's Temple Beth Sholom. They received bags stuffed with brochures, an anatomically correct breast model with simulated lumps, instruction on self-examination and genetic risk factors.
"Nobody ever explained that to me before," 15-year-old Daniella Gruber told her mother, Roe, afterward.
"She got something out of it," Gruber's mother said.
Despite winning a $5,900 grant in December 2001 from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to present the program free to 2,000 students, Hadassah's Long Beach-Orange County chapter has, so far, found few takers.
"We've had a difficult time getting into public schools," said Michelle Shahon, director of the 3,200-member Costa Mesa-based group, "If you teach them good life habits early on, that's the best method of early detection," she said.
Shahon intends to seek an extension of the grant and keep knocking on doors.