Susan K. Sniegowski, 51st Circuit Judge, stands in the courtroom at the Mason County Courthouse.
Honorable Susan K. Sniegowski, 51st Circuit Judge, stands in the courtroom at the Mason County Courthouse. Sniegowski was diagnosed with breast cancer just five months after being elected. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

As a lawyer, former prosecutor and now Mason County’s Circuit Court judge, Susan Sniegowski has spent her entire life fighting for justice.

She never imagined she would have to shift her focus from the courtroom to the operating room.

In 2015, Sniegowski was just settling in to her newly elected role on the bench when she went to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center for a routine mammogram. The test showed an abnormality, which was later confirmed to be breast cancer.

“You always try to prepare for what’s happening in your life, but I wasn’t expecting this,” said Sniegowski, who was diagnosed at 47 years old. “Breast cancer never really entered my mind because there isn’t a family history of it.”

Her proactive routine of regular mammograms, however, kept Sniegowski’s cancer from becoming more serious.

“I didn’t have any symptoms and it wasn’t the type of cancer you could feel. It could only be found on a mammogram,” Sniegowski said. “It was caught early, but I know if I had waited another year or two, I could’ve been looking at a much different result.”

Following surgery and radiation treatment, Sniegowski is now cancer free. While her cancer was a common non-invasive, non-life-threatening form of breast cancer, she credits her lifestyle and attitude for keeping her spirits up during a difficult time.

“I kept exercising and kept a positive attitude,” she said. “I didn’t want cancer to slow me down. For a day or two, I was shocked and in disbelief, but it’s my mentality to go on the offensive, so I started thinking about a plan on how to get through the treatments while still trying to do all of my normal activities.”

Sniegowski also made nutrition a priority and followed a healthy diet.

Her plan worked as she was able to preside over court proceedings each day and keep up with her young son while going through treatment.