Dr. Vicky Breakey is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences for five years.
Favourite colour: gold (especially in September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month) /vacation spot: family home in Preveza, Greece /music: Canadian Indie /food: tacos /holiday: Christmas
Tell us about your first day at HHS.
My first day at HHS was exciting. It felt a bit like “coming home.” I had done my undergraduate degree at McMaster University. I had also done some of my early clinical training on the Pediatric Oncology/Hematology Unit at MCH about 10 years earlier. This experience as a medical trainee had a huge impact on my career path that eventually led me back here.
What made you enter your field of work?
My mother was an intensive care nurse and her love of her job had a big influence on me. She often shared her experiences from the bedside and showed love and compassion for her patients. She was an excellent nurse and teacher. I always wanted to be as happy in my job as she was in hers.
What do you love most about your job?
Pediatric oncology is an amazing area of medicine to practice in. I am drawn to the patients, their families and I enjoy being a member of the supportive multi-disciplinary care team. The work can be tough at times, but it is so rewarding to be a part of each child’s journey.
“They are strong and beautiful. They are adaptable and resilient.”
Describe your most challenging days at work.
The hardest days are the ones with bad news. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it is a difficult day. When they suffer a relapse after already completing their therapy it is heartbreaking. Giving that kind of news is by far the most challenging part of my job.
What makes you most proud of your patients?
Kids and teens who are going through cancer treatment are incredibly inspiring. I am proud of the way that they make the best of their time in therapy with us. They are strong and beautiful. They are adaptable and resilient. They share their joys and fears with us and accept the health care team as their friends and conspirators. They continue to smile and play in the most difficult of circumstances.
Do you have a best friend or confidant at HHS? Tell us about him/her.
I am lucky to have a great group of friends at work. We provide support to each other on a regular basis and spend a lot of time together socially. Having this connection makes the stressful days more bearable.
“I often need to explain the amazing gains that have been made in pediatric cancer treatment in the last 20 years.”
What do you wish you had more time for at work?
I really enjoy walking on campus. I try to go for a walk at least once a week to clear my mind and re-focus. The university is such a beautiful place and I find it so inspiring.
When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react?
Telling people that I am a Pediatric Oncologist gets mixed responses. Some people assume that this is a very sad job. I often need to explain the amazing gains that have been made in pediatric cancer treatment in the last 20 years. Most people are surprised to hear that more than 80% of children survive their cancer.