Buddy Check 25: Know what's normal for you

By WEEK Producer

June 25, 2013 Updated Jun 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM CDT

Breast cancer is a diagnosis that no young, vibrant and active wife and mother can anticipate.

For Nicole McKinley it was a diagnosis that doctors almost missed, if not for her persistence.

McKinley did everything she was supposed to do, ate right, exercised, enjoyed her job at the OSF Center for Health. So, when the central Illinois wife and mother turned 40, she didn't hesitate to get a screening mammogram. She had noticed an unusual lump on her breast and wanted to be proactive. So, she simply walked down the hall to the Komen Breast Center for the test.

"I received a card in the mail that there were no abnormalities, which I was a little surprised,” said McKinley.

Her mammogram came back normal. So, why wasn't she satisfied? Nicole had no family history of breast cancer. Still, her husband supported her desire for more tests, even if he didn't think much of that tiny lump.

"Before it was confirmed, I was the 'it's gonna be fine. I understand why you're concerned. You're doing everything you should be doing.' but, once again, the disbelief of saying it couldn't be us,” said Nicole’s husband Mike.

Nicole's curiosity lingered. So, she called her doctor's office and had the nurse read the report to her.

"She said that I had dense breast tissue and they didn't identify any abnormalities,” she said.

Nicole knew in her gut this lump wasn't normal. She asked for another test.

"I had a follow-up mammogram and another sonogram and they found it on the sonogram. The repeat mammogram did not find it either,” she said.

It turns out that Nicole has level 4 breast density, which can make it very difficult to detect a problem. Because of her tenacity, doctor's diagnosed Nicole with Stage 1 Breast Cancer.

Further testing revealed she did not have the genetic mutation that would put her daughter's at greater risk. That test also guided her treatment path, surgery and radiation, no chemotherapy necessary.

"Don't be uncertain or insecure about approaching medical professionals for help,” said Nicole.

Confident in her recovery, Nicole and Mike are looking forward to a future filled with many happy tomorrow's.