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My breast cancer journey

In 2012, as I sat at my desk in Client Services (CS), I received a call from my gynecologist. Of course, I thought it may have been a general CS call. I had no idea that my life was about to change. In his soft-spoken voice my doctor said, “I am sorry to call you at work, but we don’t seem to have your new phone number. We got your pathology results back from your breast biopsy and it is showing invasive ductal carcinoma.” After the initial shock, I stepped outside with one of the supervisors who comforted me as I broke down. I ended up going home for the day and that is when my breast cancer journey began.

I’m sure everyone is wondering what led up to the events of that day. My mother passed away from breast cancer in 1985. I made sure to do breast self-exams and mammograms as recommended. One evening, I found a small knot in my right breast. It was not painful, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Within a week, I had a mammogram, was called back for a breast ultrasound, and was called back again for a needle biopsy. And then the phone call no one wants to hear.

After the pathology results, I was scheduled for a whirlwind of blood tests, MRI’s, PET scan, consults with a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and discussions about chemotherapy.  You have so much medical terminology coming at you like “in situ,” “triple negative,” and “HER2” and it can all be overwhelming. Not to mention the constant bills coming in from all the procedures, surgeries, and appointments with so many different physicians! In the end, I started with chemotherapy and then had a series of surgeries as I opted for double mastectomy and reconstruction. 

I had an incredible support system on my journey. My support system included my beautiful family: my daughters, sisters, brother, cousins, aunties, and extended family. They loved me, were my nurses, and gave me hope. Then there were my amazing friends from all over: my Client Service family at Quest Diagnostics who walked for me in a local Breast Cancer walk when I was too weak from my chemo, surprising me and wearing shirts that said Team Veronica, my best friends that I went to grade school and college with in New Mexico, and my sorority sisters from UNLV that brought me meals and prayers. There are also support groups just for breast cancer patients and survivors.

My medical team included more than doctors, nurses, and surgeons. There were genetic counselors too that answered questions and helped provide guidance along the way.  

Now that I work in Genetics, I understand so much of the terminology and what to expect if a predisposition to cancer is hereditary and I have learned that it is important to find out about your options for genetic testing. I had my genetic testing and was found NOT to have the high-risk breast cancer gene. It is so important for cancer patients and their family members to follow up on genetic test results and family history as information can change over time and other related cancer conditions can be uncovered. 

I share my story to say that, even in what may appear your darkest time, you must stay positive, have a good support system, and try to follow medical advice from your trusted medical staff. To all my cancer survivors and to those currently fighting the good fight, bless you!


Veronica McKinney
Genomics Client Service Specialist