Prophylactic Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy with DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction
My mother was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 44. She died in 2011, after an 18 year battle with breast cancer that slowly but surely metasticized to her brain, liver, and other organs. Though my mother tried her best to make the most of her 18 years of survival, much of her post-diagnosis time and energy were spent getting used to one medication or another, visiting doctors, undergoing surgeries, recuperating from surgeries, applying for medical trials, and anxiously anticipating various test results.
I watched my mother morph from a super high-energy woman who rode a motorcycle into a woman who had no appetite, could barely walk across a room, and who didn’t even have the energy or focus to read a book.
In the fall of 2011, about six months after my mother passed away, I decided to get genetically tested to find out if I am BRCA mutation positive. Deciding to go through with the test was not difficult. I was pretty convinced I had the mutation. So when my genetic counselor gave me the news, and told me that I was indeed BRCA 1 mutation positive, I was actually quite emotionally prepared. I don’t believe I even cried when I heard the results.
The minute I found out I was BRCA1 positive, I knew I would be planning a preventative surgery to help drastically lower the odds of my getting breast cancer. Knowing that my mother had had a clear mammogram just months before being diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer made me want to aggressively fight my odds of getting an especially aggressive genetic mutation. I knew that vigilant monitoring through mammograms wasn't for me, and that I would lose sleep for weeks (or months) before each yearly exam.
My husband and I quickly decided to have a second child, and I planned to have my mastectomy and reconstruction as soon as I had weaned my second baby from breastfeeding. This period of time gave me the opportunity to research my options for surgery. I did as much homework as I could, joining support groups like FORCE, reaching out to other women who had gone through similar surgeries, and interviewing surgeons, both locally and nationally.
My experience communicating with PRMA was so unique and so positive compared to my experiences with other plastic surgery practices. At other places, I felt like I was being treated like a specimen, and like I was being TOLD what I should do with my body. From my very first conversation with PRMA, I felt like I was being treated like a human being, and that I was being ASKED what I wanted to do with my body. My virtual consultation with Dr. Chrysopoulo made my decision very easy. The first thing he asked me when we spoke was “do you have children?” When he heard I have two little kids, he told me that being a mom post-surgery would be the most challenging part of getting DIEP flap reconstruction. It was obvious that he didn’t just see me as his patient, he saw me as a woman and as a mother. Dr. Chrysopoulo was also very careful to provide me with realistic expectations for the surgery and its results, and I completely appreciated his transparency.
After the virtual consultation, I decided to travel to PRMA in San Antonio with my husband and children to get my nipple-sparing mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction. Though traveling for surgery was a bit unconventional, and many friends and relatives questioned why we would travel such a far distance when there were “perfectly fine surgeons” in my area, it was important to me that I felt 100% confident in my surgeon and their team. I truly did have that confidence in PRMA.
The first phase of my surgery was completed this past February. The initial week following surgery was quite challenging, but in the second and third weeks post-surgery I found myself quickly bouncing back to feeling like myself. Most importantly, I was thrilled with my results! Admittedly, my pre-surgery breasts, which had breastfed each of my children for 15 months, had seen better days. My pre-surgery belly was also a testament to my two pregnancies. After my first phase of reconstruction, I had a waistline again, and my breasts looked better than they had in five years.
I will be going back for the completion of my surgery on June 19th. I am truly looking forward to completing this portion of my preventative care, and am very proud of the decisions I have made in the process. To say that PRMA has been a godsend would be an understatement. They have reduced my risk of getting breast cancer by over 90%. They have increased my odds of living to see my children grow up, of continuing to be a partner to my husband, and of seeing many more summer skies and sunsets and starry nights. My gratitude to them for this gift goes beyond what words can express.
I belong to a few support groups for BRCA mutation positive women. Many women fear getting a mastectomy and reconstruction. Many women go through with mastectomies and reconstruction with local surgeons who have relatively limited experience with breast reconstruction, and they are left with complications that are quite devastating. I wish I could meet each one of these women in person. If I did, I would hand them a PRMA business card, and tell them to make a phone call. I wouldn’t just recommend PRMA to anyone… I would recommend PRMA to EVERYONE considering breast surgery.