Saved by COVID-19? How a Raleigh woman’s infection now means she’s breast cancer free

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Saved by COVID-19. It may sound strange but it’s a reality for one Raleigh woman.

She is now advocating for women to take charge of their own health especially when it comes to breast cancer.

“I could not believe it. I was like, cancer? Me? No,” said Vennice Roberts.

It was another hit for Roberts after an already excruciating year. Roberts worked at a nursing home when she was infected with COVID-19 in Nov. 2020. After her infection, she started to feel sharp pains in her chest.

“We went to the doctor and they saw, they took the X-ray and it was like Ms. Roberts something is just not right,” she said.

The X-rays showed COVID-19 caused clotting in her lung. After another follow-up, doctors discovered a white spot in her imaging — it was breast cancer.

“The COVID, and then the blood clots, and the cancer. I just went into shock,” she said.

The 60-year-old underwent surgery and treatment eventually getting to ring the cancer-free bell at the Duke Cancer Center.

“I just kept ringing it because I wanted the whole building to know that I made it through and you will too,” Roberts explained.

The experience has inspired her own daughter to be more proactive about cancer screening.

“It doesn’t discriminate whether you are a healthy person or not so you got to make sure you get checked. I got my first mammogram this year,” said Talaya McCrainey.

“Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women who have no family history, no genetic predisposition. They just occur. You don’t know, based on your family history or your overall health, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get breast cancer,” said Dr. Tammy Kreuzer, a breast radiologist with Duke Health.

Roberts skipped mammograms for three years thinking her self-exams at home were enough.

“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and so we really want to emphasize the importance of screening mammography. Early detection is our best chance to cure breast cancer. And so annual screening mammography is very very important and the best way to detect breast cancer early,” said Kreuzer.

Kreuzer said there is no age where you should stop screening.

“We recommend screening beginning at age 40. Every year, there’s a potential for a breast cancer to be missed or caught at a more advanced stage if we skip years. And so we recommend annual screening beginning at age 40. And then we recommend screening throughout a woman’s lifetime,” said Kreuzer.

Roberts and her daughter hope others will go see their doctor for a mammogram or just a wellness check.

“I had three illness in the last nine months that could kill me but it didn’t because I know that God has a plan for my life,” said Roberts.

If she can inspire one person, Roberts says it’ll be enough.

“COVID, it was a curse, but it was a blessing. It really was because if it wasn’t for that I would have never known that I had cancer in my breasts. Never known to this day,” she said.

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