Anne Wilfong - Dr. Marga's January 2012 Mermaid of the Month
A Mountain Mermaid and her Man—a journey through life with breast cancer
I've always been an active person, and marrying my husband Tim has kept me on the active path for the past 25 years. My first diagnosis of breast cancer came in 2002. In 2003 we spent two weeks hiking the Alps in Switzerland. We moved to Colorado, full of dreams of the active lifestyle we'd come to embrace. Between hiking, cycling, rock climbing, strength training, snow shoeing, and Pilates, it seems there was little time to do anything else!
In 2007 I was diagnosed again, with a new primary. Determined to get by with as little "down time" as possible during the reconstruction process, I opted for bilateral mastectomies with implants. My surgeon said this route was best for active women. He told me just what I wanted to hear. I knew about flap surgery, but really my tummy wasn’t very big, and I was convinced that traveling out of state would be a burden.
The burden was the implants. I was back to my activities within 8 weeks, but I had continual nerve pain and those silicone breasts were cold, they migrated upward, felt like bricks when I was doing Yoga on my stomach, and developed painful scarring. My surgeon was willing to either de-construct or re-reconstruct with new implants. He said I didn't have enough tissue for a DIEP or SGAP (yet he had never done one nor counseled anyone about the option before.)
I knew from my years on a breast cancer website that I could at least get a consult from an experienced surgeon about the autologous flap surgeries. And Dr. Marga had me from "hello." She listened, she looked at my pictures, and reassured me that I was indeed a candidate for a flap procedure. We discussed everything that needed to be discussed, and I booked a surgery time right then.
My husband wasn't too happy. He'd seen me suffer through mastectomies, expanders, and implants. He didn't want me to go through a long surgery and another long recovery. He would have chosen removal of implants and no other reconstruction. But it was my choice. And he stood by me every step of the way, loving Marga as I love her, through three surgeries (and a fourth one in the works.)
After each surgery (I had a bilateral SGAP in 2009) I bounced back quickly into my activities and way of life. Traveling out of state has been a non-issue. It was a little inconvenience of time, but absolutely well worth it for the quality of surgical expertise. The hardest part for me has been how to time my subsequent surgeries around my life—from hiking in New Zealand and Peru to cycling across Wyoming to working toward my certification as a Pilates instructor!
Dr. Marga has truly become a friend, not just my doctor. Her staff is as loving and competent as she is. Many times I wish I had gotten Marga involved with my care from the onset, but this journey from implants to flaps was a necessary one, for now I can be a better advocate for other women facing the same issues I did. As one of Marga's Mermaids, I sing the siren song of her praises—from the mountain tops of Colorado.
Thank you, Marga, for everything you have given me. This Mountain Mermaid appreciates you more than you'll ever know.