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State Rep. Deborah Mell confirms she has breast cancer

ChristBaker State Rep. Deborah Mell reveal they got married recently Iowa. Tuesday August 30 2011 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Christin Baker and State Rep. Deborah Mell reveal they got married recently in Iowa. Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 15, 2012 3:42PM

State Rep. Deborah Mell has breast cancer.

Reached at home Wednesday night, the North Side Democrat confirmed that she has been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, and is undergoing tests to help guide her choice of treatment options.

She declined to elaborate further. But she did take time Wednesday night to thank a well-wisher on Twitter, who sent her a message offering prayers for a quick recovery.

Mell, 43, who lives in the Lake View neighborhood, is the daughter of Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) and the sister-in-law of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. She has served as representative of the 40th District on the city’s North and Northwest Sides since 2009.

Her sister, Patti Blagojevich, is the state’s former first lady.

One of three openly gay state lawmakers, Deborah Mell married her partner Christin Baker, a national director for the YMCA, in a ceremony in Iowa in 2011. With the widely publicized move, Mell became the first high-profile elected official in Illinois to publicly enter into a same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, she and two other Democrats in the state House — Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy — introduced a bill seeking to legalize gay marriage in Illinois.

Even before entering politics, Mell made headlines. In 2004, she was arrested during a gay rights protest outside the Cook County Clerk’s office. She was charged with injuring a police lieutenant by plowing her head and shoulder into the officer’s chest. But she was later found not guilty.

Mell currently serves on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s advisory council for human relations and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley’s LGBT advisory council.

Her marriage last August was a bright spot for the family in an otherwise trying time. Her brother-in-law was then awaiting sentencing for corruption. He is currently serving 14 years in prison.

But last summer, Mell said the Blagojeviches and their two young daughters were focused on attending her wedding.

“I know Patti is happy for us,” Mell told Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin at the time. “And the girls are standing up in our wedding, and they have their dresses. . . . My whole family is just really thrilled, and Rod is really happy to be there and be a part of it. . . . We are going through tough times ... [but] it does not at all put a cloud over our ceremony. Everyone is just really thrilled for us.”

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