Cherrie - Dr. Marga's June 2014 Mermaid of the Month
What an honor to be a one of Dr. Marga Massey’s mermaids. It is difficult knowing where to begin, but I will do my best and hope that it helps others in their recovery journey.
Twelve years ago, at the age of 47, I was diagnosed with invasive cancer in the left breast. After a lumpectomy, radiation, and one year of Lupron therapy I tried to get on with my life. Every mammogram, oncology appointment, ultrasound, MRI, and needle aspiration reminded me that breast cancer is always with survivors.
Nine years later a tender spot required a biopsy, which resulted in an ADH diagnosis. Although not cancer, it is considered a precursor. Chances of a breast cancer recurrence rose to 40%, and that was in my “good” breast. My options were to continue rotating six month MRI’s and mammograms, as I had already been doing for years, or consider a bilateral mastectomy. After a second and third opinion, it looked like this was the best direction to go. This decision was put on hold as I went through hospice and the death of my mother.
I had a couple of consultations with plastic surgeons in a larger city near me. The type of surgeries they recommended would involve the loss of muscle in either the abdomen or upper back. They also informed me that there would be a high rate of implant failure on my left side due to radiation damage. This was so disheartening, and I remember many tears as I didn’t want to use my muscle or have foreign implants in my body.
Researching the topic more extensively, I found out about DIEP surgery. This sounded like a good option for me. My next search was for experienced surgeons, which I couldn’t find in my state. On the breastcancer.org site I chatted extensively with girls who had gone through this surgery. A list of names was given to me and I zoomed in on the only woman, as I was desperate for someone who could connect with me emotionally. That name was Dr. Marga Massey!
Calling her office was a mix of emotions, because I would need to go out of state for this procedure and I was sure I could not afford this world-renowned surgeon on a teacher’s salary. A phone consult was set up for the following Sunday. (What doctor works on a Sunday?) Amazingly, the consult turned into a two hour conversation! Dr. Marga listened, was respectful of my needs, and had genuine sympathy - as much of our conversation was done through my tears. I remember thinking, as our conversation ended, that I had never talked to such a passionate and caring doctor. Whatever obstacles were in the way, I was going to plow through them to be under the care of this surgeon.
So, I ended up going to New Orleans for my stage one procedure in November of 2012. It was a long and difficult surgery, but I now have warm breasts made from my own tissue. No muscle was used and there are no foreign objects in my body. I had three follow up surgeries in Chicago and received the same passionate care and attention to detail.
Breast reconstruction has come a long way, and I was so thrilled to have this available to me. The DIEP surgery offers another option for women going through this ordeal. My results were much better than expected, and my tummy is now flat. Vavoom!!
My entire experience with Dr. Massey has been outstanding. The passion, confidence, and enthusiasm she exhibits is like a ray of sunshine, and her bedside manner is unbelievable. Her Personal Care Coordinator, Becky, is also amazing. Countless hours were spent on the phone, emailing, and texting with her…and during all those communications she was totally efficient, patient, and caring.
Developing these relationships has made it very hard to bring this long journey to an end. My last visit was in April of 2014 for follow-up pictures, and it was very bittersweet. Through my hugs and tears I know it was a long journey, but one that was very much worth taking.
There is no way I could ever thank all of these people enough. What do you say to someone who has given you your life back both physically and emotionally? My life is richer for having Dr. Massey as my surgeon and friend. I love her, and am proud to be one of her mermaids.
With heartfelt gratitude,