4 relatives urge others to learn family history after being diagnosed with breast cancer


Four women in one metro family have all been diagnosed with breast cancer. After learning they all carried a gene that would make it more likely to develop the deadly disease, they're hoping other women will learn their family history.

Shirley McClendon learned she had breast cancer in March 2010. She was the first in her family to be diagnosed.

"That's when they found that it was stage 3 breast cancer," Shirley said.

This diagnosis would not be McClendon's only run-in with the deadly disease. Just six months later, her mother was diagnosed. One year later, her sister Janith Johnson would also be diagnosed. For this family, breast cancer was in the genes.

"At the point when my sister found out, that's when we did all of the genetic testing to see what part of the family it was coming from," Shirley said.

Johnson said her sister's diagnosis was devastating.

"I was awfully devastated when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I felt at that time it was important to support her," Johnson adds.

In 2010, Johnson was her sister's support system. She never could have imagined in just 12 months, she would need her own.

"Because my sister had already been through that battle, she helped me tremendously by encouraging and by being there when I was sick," Johnson said.

The sisters decided to run tests to see if they had a genetic predisposition to cancer.

"My sister had mentioned the genetic test. I did test positive," Johnson said.

Johnson took action by deciding to have a dull mastectomy, based on the results of her gene test. It was when their younger cousin, Kesha Carney was diagnosed they learned just how many women in the family had cancer.

For Carney, she had three family members to lean on as she fought the battle of her lifetime.

"I would call her sometimes because I didn't know why I felt a certain way or why my nails were turning black. She always told me 'fight fight fight," Carney said.

The women say they are proof that you need to know your family history, and get checked regularly for breast cancer.

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