Niagara Gazette

Niagara Living

August 1, 2008

FREE SCREENING: Niagara County program saves lives

Norine Ciemny was able to make it to her recent wedding with a peaceful heart. Betty Sweitzer went back to beating some of the younger players in her Niagara Falls pool league.

Both women had their minds put at ease by a Niagara County program that provides medical screening to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it.

The program, called the Healthy Living Partnership, provides free mammograms, pap smears and colorectal screening for residents who do not have insurance or who are underinsured.

For Ciemny, of North Tonawanda, the program made all the difference in the world. She was newly divorced and uninsured when she found two lumps in her breast.

“I knew I was in trouble without insurance. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

She started calling around and came across Healthy Living. Tests were set up, and almost three years ago — after three surgeries and a round of chemotherapy under the care of who she calls some of the best doctors in the business — she was given a clean bill of health.

“They never questioned any treatment,” she said of the program. The only bill she received was for $36.

In her challenge to save her own life, she found the support of Healthy Living to be a “miracle.”

“They were phenomenal,” she said.

When Ciemny found a job, working as a paint and decorating manager for Lowe’s, her insurance did not cover pre-existing conditions for a year. Healthy Living continued to get her coverage for the drugs that helped to keep her cancer free.

Recently remarried, Ciemny is intent on spreading the word about Healthy Living, understanding that it is sometimes hard for people to accept help from the government.

“We’ve always worked and paid our taxes, and look at this incredible program that they have. It probably saved my life,” she said.

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