Michele - Dr. Marga's December 2013 Mermaid of the Month

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Renee

I always thought that there was a distinct possibility that breast cancer was in my future. My grandmother and aunt had itů and my mother died from breast cancer at the age of 55. I just never thought it would come so early. At 41, I wanted to be attending dance class with Savannah, taking Charlie to guitar, and looking ahead to Shelbey's high school graduation. Instead, in March 2010, I was thrust into a world of doctor's appointments, surgery, and the worst of all, chemotherapy. Once I was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer, I knew two things immediately. First, I wanted a bilateral mastectomy. Second, I wanted reconstruction as soon as possible.

All of my doctors and the breast cancer navigators recommended a particular plastic surgeon for my reconstruction. I was told he does a fabulous job, and everyone goes to him. When I went for my consultation, I was told I was not a candidate for the TRAM flap and that I should go with implants. He said he would put in the tissue expanders at the same time as my bilateral mastectomy. I did question if it was all right to do tissue expanders with my mastectomy since more than likely I would need radiation. I was assured that was not a problem. Nothing was said about the fact that there is an almost 50% failure rate for implants and radiation.

So after almost six months of chemotherapy, I had my tissue expanders placed with the mastectomy. Radiation followed and then six months later I traded my tissue expanders for implants. I hated them instantly. They looked terrible. A few months later I developed capsular contracture, which caused me almost constant pain. I began in desperation to research my options. It was then that God in his providence led me to Dr. Marga Massey. I read again and again on the breast cancer boards how her patients loved her. The words used to describe Dr. Marga seemed too good to be true. I emailed her, and was so surprised when she, not her staff, answered my first email. I am fortunate to live only a couple of hours from Charleston. I arranged to have a consultation in October 2011.

I immediately sensed the difference when I met Dr. Massey for the first time. My initial appointment lasted three hours. She answered every question, and talking to her was like talking to a long lost friend. She assured me that there was another way. We discussed a triple flap procedure. I knew by the end of the consultation that I wanted Dr. Marga to replace my implants with my own tissue. Soon after, I had a surgery date. I had my triple flap reconstruction in New Orleans in December of 2011. The surgery was not easy. I needed a blood transfusion and stayed for eight days. But wow, what a difference! I loved my new breasts. They were warm and soft and felt like a part of me. I tell everyone that my reconstructed breasts are me, just rearranged. Even before any of my multiple stage 2 surgeries, the reconstructed breasts were so much better than the implants. Even if I had only had the stage one surgery with Dr. Marga, I would have been a million times more satisfied.

Several more surgeries followed with Dr. Marga, five more to be exact. Each one improved on what was already a great result. My donor sites were revised and the breasts themselves were made symmetrical. There were some bumps along the way. Three days before one of my stage 2 surgeries, I fell down the steps in my garage and broke my foot. I called Dr. Marga the next day and pleaded with her not to cancel my surgery. She arranged for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon in the Roper ER to make sure no further treatment was needed on my broken foot. Then she did my surgery the next day. I was certainly a site, hobbling around the hospital post surgery with my broken foot.

There was also the battle with my previous insurance company that didn't want to pay for my reconstruction surgery that they had pre-approved. Dr. Marga and her staff helped me fight the good fight, and we won!

There are some good things about being a breast cancer survivor. All the little things in life mean so much more. Like the pleasure I had watching my eight year old being a soldier in the Nutcracker. I get teary eyed as my children reach milestones and we celebrate holidays as a family. I thank God each and every day for allowing me to be here with my family. Another good thing was the outpouring of love from my friends. It means so much to know others care so deeply. Finally, I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to know Dr. Marga. She is not just my doctor, but she is also a dear friend. She is an angel from heaven. Not a day goes by that I don't say a prayer of thanks for all she has done and meant to be.

I did my reconstruction not just for me but also for my two daughters. I want them to know that they too can still be beautiful even after a battle with breast cancer. Thanks to wonderful doctors like Dr. Marga, breast cancer survivors need not fear about what they will look like after cancer. My daughters will know that breast cancer no longer has the power to take away our self-esteem and femininity. Now we have the power to look like the strong, beautiful women that we are. Thank you so much for everything Dr. Marga. You are truly a special lady!

Michele

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Lymphedema / Lymph Node Transfer / Breast Reconstruction / Mastectomy