Leanne Deptula is a fighter. She was diagnosed with her first occurrence of breast cancer on Oct. 31, 2008, after her doctor found a lump in her left breast. Doctors diagnosed her with triple-negative invasive ductal cancer, which had spread to several of her lymph nodes. She underwent a lumpectomy, node dissection, and several months of chemo and radiation before completing treatment in the first half of 2009.
Five years later, Leanne’s mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing showed that Leanne had a BRCA mutation, putting her at higher risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. “Since I had already had breast cancer, the immediate focus and priority was on my increased risk for ovarian cancer,” she says. She was quickly scheduled for a complete hysterectomy and began screening every six months.
But Leanne’s ordeal wasn’t over yet. In June 2018, just short of the 10th anniversary of her first diagnosis, doctors found a new tumor in her right breast. Other than being on the right side, it was identical to her first diagnosis: triple-negative invasive ductal cancer. Leanne received chemotherapy, a complete mastectomy and reconstruction, and a red blood cell transfusion before completing treatment in January 2020. “As a recipient of a blood transfusion, I am forever grateful to the unknown person who took time to donate a precious gift,” she says.
Leanne, a director for Versiti Diagnostic Laboratories, is passionate about developing better treatments—and even curing—diseases like cancer. “As a clinical laboratory scientist and two-time breast cancer warrior (I don’t like the term ‘survivor,’ because I never intended to let cancer beat me), I have a personal interest in the continued advancement of treatment not only for breast cancer patients, but all patients with life-altering diseases—something that can only be accomplished through research,” she says.