Anita - Dr. Marga's January 2014 Mermaid of the Month

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Anita

My mermaid story begins with the celebration of 15 years post diagnosis on Dec 28th 2013. I had my right ankle tattooed with a beautiful mermaid sporting a right mastectomy as a reward for finishing my chemotherapy a very long time ago. It is with great joy I celebrate this anniversary as one of Marga's mermaids. I knew from our first phone call together that she would become part of my story.

My story started when I found a lump while taking a shower. I always did monthly self-exams in the shower so I wouldn't feel rushed. Rather quickly I had a series of appointments and tests that led me to a surgeon's office with the news that my excisional biopsy result was malignant. I had triple negative breast cancer. What a whirlwind knockdown punch in the face that news was for this 31 year old mother of three young boys. I was alone at that appointment and still swear I had an out of body experience and heard nothing else the surgeon said. Also, I am quite certain that the good Lord drove me home that day too. I learned to never go to appointments alone anymore after that one.

Treatment commenced very quickly and I had my modified radical mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using saline implants just two weeks after the diagnosis. I had very little skin left to work with and ended up having a series of surgeries to remove and replace the implant. During the initial recovery period, I had a really hard time raising my arm any higher than shoulder height. I was trying to get dressed one day and got stuck in my night gown.  My oldest son, at eleven years old, came to the rescue. I was so proud of him. He didn't flutter one second over the bandages, drains and my pathetic blubbering over how I can't even dress myself. Next, I had my port placed and began six months of chemotherapy. I have one particular memory that stands out most about the chemotherapy treatments. I was driving my son to his tumbling class and was overcome with nausea to the point I had to stop on the side of the road and let it rip. There was a jerk that passed us honking his horn non-stop and shouting obscenities at me. I was so mad that I ripped off my hat exposing my completely bald head hoping that he would think twice before harassing anyone on the road ever again. I got back into the mini-van with tears flowing and my son said, “it's alright Mommy, I don't mind stopping because you are sick.” The resilience of my kids got me through more rough times than words can express. All of my care team members were in strong agreement that I should remove my healthy left breast for the best prognosis. With high hopes of watching my four year old graduate from high school someday, I chose to go ahead with the prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction of the remaining breast. The outpouring of love, generosity, support and help I received from my husband, family, friends, and our community was unbelievable.  I will be eternally grateful.

Seven years after reconstruction, my right implant began shrinking. I was told I had little pinhole ruptures.  Dreading the thought of more surgery, I tolerated the shrinking breast for several years. Over time, the implant was also working its way up and out toward my armpit. The decision to pursue reconstruction again was very clear when I wanted to sunbathe and my bathing suit top wouldn't work at all with the deformities of my right breast. The easy solution that day was to sunbathe topless in my back yard. It somehow made me feel in charge about the whole situation. That topless sunbathing in my back yard event is precisely what led me to Dr. Massey.

The most difficult part about working with Dr. Massey and her staff is that I will forever be comparing the top-notch quality care, pampering and genuine concern I received to my local care providers. They just don't measure up in comparison. What a joy to have a team of people who really do care about every little detail. My heart holds a special place for Marga Massey and her entire team. Thank you so much for making me whole again!

Anita

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