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Veronica Laurel: Empowered Breast Cancer Survivor Chooses Her Path Forward

Veronica Laurel

“I am still learning how to manage the change, but when confronted with a cancer diagnosis, it makes you realize how precious time is. I am cherishing every moment of that time.“

Veronica Laurel
Breast Cancer

Veronica Laurel has long made it a habit to do regular breast self-exams, but she never thought that one day it would lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2019, she began focusing on her diet and exercise and lost 30 pounds. "The first place you lose weight, as any woman who loses weight knows, is your breasts. It wasn't what I wanted, but it happened."

As a result of losing weight, she was able to feel a lump in her left breast for the first time. Veronica was diagnosed with Stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer in January 2020. “I was angry that doing something that was “healthy” led to a cancer diagnosis.” Even worse, it happened right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Veronica faced many unknowns, she had no choice but to do so alone.

“No one tells you how to manage your cancer journey. The pandemic prevented in-person support groups from taking place. I turned to social media to find groups of women affected by breast cancer,” Veronica says. “Some of these women were not just surviving; they were thriving.”

Emmalind Aponte, M.D., Veronica’s oncologist at Texas Oncology–San Antonio, says Veronica’s attitude and actions are a wonderful example of living your best life possible with cancer. She said Veronica remained positive, found support, and is now surviving and thriving.

“To me, she’s inspiring,” Dr. Aponte says. “She has the best attitude and has been able to go back to her life without cancer taking the best of her life.”

Options To Consider

When a breast cancer diagnosis is made, surgery is the most common treatment option, according to Dr. Aponte. Depending on the type of cancer, surgery options range from lumpectomies to mastectomy and double mastectomy procedures that involve removing both breasts, as well as oncoplastic procedures such as “Hidden Scar” techniques that help minimize the physical impact of cancer surgery.

Veronica spent time researching all her options. She asked herself where she wanted to be several years from now – a question that guided her toward having a simple mastectomy without reconstructing her breasts. She did not feel like she could live with asymmetry, therefore ruling out the option of a single mastectomy. She wanted treatment that would be most effective in reducing the likelihood of recurrences and to resume normal life.

“I wanted to do life with my husband again. I wanted to watch my son get married. Most importantly, I just wanted to be me – beautiful simplicity, and I knew I didn’t need artificial breasts to feel like a woman.”

She then met with Alfredo Santillan, M.D., MPH, a breast surgeon at Texas Breast Specialists–San Antonio Medical Center.

“When I work with patients, I provide a full 360-degree view of their options,” says Dr. Santillan. “My recommendation is that patients have an open discussion with their physicians so that they can make an informed decision. We want our patients to feel empowered and supported to make the right choice.”

After meeting with Dr. Santillan, Veronica felt well-informed about her options and confirmed that a simple mastectomy with only the reconstruction of the natural contours of her chest wall was her chosen path forward.

Moving Forward

"I am still learning how to manage the change, but when confronted with a cancer diagnosis, it makes you realize how precious time is," Veronica says. “I am cherishing every moment of that time.”

With four surgeries, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and 25 radiation treatments, Veronica can now move forward from her breast cancer diagnosis.

She is now part of a growing community of women called “For The Breast of Us” – an organization created to empower women of color affected by breast cancer through education, advocacy, and community.

Veronica said that online communities helped her heal emotionally after facing a new future without a guidebook.

“They helped me change my mindset from cancer happening to me to cancer happening for me.”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.