Christine - Dr. Marga's May 2014 Mermaid of the Month

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Christine

As I write this, I just celebrated my third anniversary as a breast cancersurvivor. While facing a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy were huge challenges, my breast reconstruction journey was equally challenging until circumstances led me to Dr. Massey.

I realize that breast reconstruction is a personal choice influenced by self image, finances, where you live, and many other factors. I always knew I would feel "deformed" if I didn't do all I could to get back to a body that made me feel good about myself.

In April 2011 I had a single mastectomy after diagnosis of two kinds of cancer in that breast, followed by chemotherapy May through August. I then began reconstruction using an expander and implant, which failed after 2 more surgeries and 18 months due to scar tissue build up. I had run out of options for reconstruction in my state at that point as my body did not "like" implants and I did not want to involve my muscles again in reconstruction.

I began to research microsurgeons doing DIEP flaps because I needed a "hug repair"...my implant was so hard due to scar tissue that I didn't want my grandchildren to wonder why Grandma's hug felt funny! Once I read more about flap surgery, I knew my journey would not be complete without squishy "breasts" again, if we could make it happen within our means.

I had already undergone 2 implant-related surgeries before I realized I needed to look for reconstruction using my own tissue. I also knew that, if I continued my reconstruction journey, I needed to work with a surgeon who understood what I had been through, how I viewed my body (highly active, valued my muscles, e.g.), and how important reconstruction is to breast cancer survivors. All I read about Dr. Massey, added to our time visiting with her on the telephone initially, helped me realize that I had to explore whether we could afford to travel from Montana so I could be her patient. Little did we realize we would "travel by medical" twice for surgery with her in NOLA and Charleston!

When I began visiting with Dr. Massey and the Personal Care Coordinators from her Chicago office, I made the decision to have a second mastectomy followed by a bilateral DIEP in NOLA in September 2013. Working with Dr. Massey and her team has always felt "right" to me and that I was meant to be in her care to finish my reconstruction.

My second mastectomy and bilateral Stage 1 DIEP surgery in NOLA took 11 hours. Having had my children by Caesarean sections, I knew I would feel very tight down the front of my torso after my abdominal tissue and fat was used for the DIEP. (In my wildest dreams, I never knew I'd be glad to have that "fat pad" that I hated!) Luckily, I did a lot of walking starting the day after surgery, which I know helped me recover, and get used to physical changes from surgery.

We traveled to Charleston for a 2-hour Stage 2 six months later (March 2014). I have decided not to have additional surgeries. Dr. Massey did such amazing work creating my new "breasts" that I was able to feel very complete after fat grafting and a nipple tattoo during my Stage 2. The hardest part of leaving Charleston was the idea of not seeing Dr. Massey again!

It is amazing that tissue flap reconstruction is available as a choice for breast reconstruction. I truly hope the future brings that option more available to all women diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast reconstruction, for me, was not an easy journey, but I knew it was the right choice for me. Grandma's hug is back to squishy! I will always feel Dr. Massey is "family" due to all she has done for me. She helped me feel more complete physically, and helped improve my self-image and self-esteem through her expertise.

Christine

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Lymphedema / Lymph Node Transfer / Breast Reconstruction / Mastectomy