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Lincoln health department director dies after battle with breast cancer
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Lincoln health department director dies after battle with breast cancer

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The 40-year-old director of Lincoln and Lancaster County's joint health department died Thursday following a battle with breast cancer.

Shavonna Lausterer, who was named to lead the department in 2017, had most recently been on medical leave, and former director Pat Lopez was chosen to oversee the agency in the interim.

"All of us in the city government who had the opportunity to serve with Shavonna are deeply saddened to learn of her passing," Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said in a statement. "She was loved and respected as both a model public servant and leader. Our hearts go out to her family, friends, colleagues and loved ones. We will miss her dearly."

Lausterer shared her story in a video to promote a fundraising walk for cancer research in Lincoln last October. 

At age 37, she had her first mammogram because of her job as health department director.

"I should probably get one done if I’m telling other women to go get checked and (that) early detection is important," she recalled thinking. 

That screening was negative. 

But almost a year to the day, she found a lump, went in and had a biopsy taken, she said. 

Her doctors diagnosed her with Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer. 

She immediately thought of her daughters, who were 9 and 4 at the time, and her husband. 

She decided to aggressively pursue treatment, she said. 

“Now I just have a new and profound level of empathy for the women and men who get this diagnosis every day.”

After her diagnosis, she learned just how supportive people around her and who have had cancer are, she said.

"This doesn’t have to define you in a negative way," Lausterer said in the video. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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