Rhonda from Grand Junction, Colorado
DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction
I'm Rhonda from Grand Junction, Colorado. In 2011 I had two car accidents and three surgeries. The last surgery being a mastectomy to cure me of breast cancer. Because I had radiation treatments and a bleeding disorder, it was recommended that I wait to have reconstruction and just get through the healing process. It had been a nightmare of a year and I was exhausted. I had a huge hole in my chest and it felt like I had a hole in my heart as well.
I celebrated because I survived the cancer. However, I felt I was just alive, not living. I had survived, but I wasn’t thriving.
I began to look for options for reconstruction. I wanted reconstruction but due to the radiation treatments, I had few options. Only tissue transfer would work and I have a bleeding disorder. Most surgeons that I met with did not want to take the risk. I needed experts, but had become too tired to keep searching.
Prosthetics were very helpful and certainly made me feel better when I was dressed, however sometimes they were heavy and I had to inch one side higher. They caused me to be hot in warmer weather and made me sweat underneath the prosthetic. They were sometimes visible when I bent down. I was always pinning something or adding lace so something would not show. Getting dressed everyday was a major drag. I became depressed. I wanted to feel whole again but was so tired from the stress of the last few years.
One day while I was at the local hospital for follow-up care, I was crying to my physical therapist about how I felt. She said she knew of a woman who had reconstruction by a group of experts in Texas. She said she would call her and see if she might be willing to meet with me. On our way out of the building the woman walked in. The therapist introduced us and told the woman what I was going through. She was willing to help immediately. She told me about PRMA and was even willing to go to the ladies room and show me her results after only stage one of her surgery. She was four months recovered and had scheduled her stage two surgery. I was very impressed with what I saw. It did not look like blobs, but rather breasts without nipples and I thought to myself, I could live with that. If we could just deal with my bleeding disorder then this could be my answer. I found that people from all over the country go to see this team of plastic surgeons because they are experts.
I called PRMA and spoke with Brandy, the patient liaison. She was wonderful. She gave my name to Dr. Chrysopoulo and he called me back. We discussed my medical issues and he ordered blood work to determine if I was a candidate for the DIEP flap surgery, which he thought would be the best choice for me. In the meantime, Brandy helped me find answers to my insurance questions, travel questions and everything I needed to know. I was beginning to think, with this team of experts, I could be restored. The blood tests came back and Dr. Chrysopoulo, along with the team of surgeons, evaluated them. They felt with the right precautions I could have the surgery safely.
Shortly after this, my husband left. My heart had been so broken and I had been through so much the last few years, I did not know what to do from here. I still had insurance through my husband’s work, but could not afford the deductible. I knew I could not get the surgery on my own. One of my nurses suggested a car wash to pay the deductible. Much of the community showed up to help and to make donations. My local church helped raise much of the money. A friend of mine who was a nurse offered to travel with my daughter and me if we could pay her travel. My church answered the call again and arranged for her flight and paid for her airline ticket. My community seemed to understand that I needed this.
When I arrived in San Antonio, we had planned to stay at a certain hotel, but it was not the nicest. It was a place for “long term guests” to stay. I called Brandy and told her what had happened and that we needed a place to stay. She arranged for a night at the Towne Place Suites on Prue. It was wonderful. They gave us the PRMA medical discount, so we reserved the room for our entire stay. The room was clean and the service was incredible. I was ready for surgery on Monday morning.
When I woke up from surgery, it seemed we had conquered the bleeding issues, I was so grateful. I looked down and saw what looked like a breast again. What a gift. Perhaps having that deficit so long made me more grateful than ever. To have something real and alive back in that space, it made me feel whole again.
It was a big surgery, but the nursing staff at the Methodist Hospital and the surgeons at PRMA monitored my progress carefully. They kept a careful watch to make sure the bleeding or bruising was within normal limits. The surgery was somewhat painful and it involved quite the healing process, but I am grateful I had the best team on board to take me through it. I found the experts at PRMA.
I will always have a special place in my heart for Dr. Chrysopoulo. This surgery gave me my life back. I can get up every day and take a shower, get dressed and be grateful.
Along this difficult journey, I was able to experience miracle after miracle. I experienced love in abundance from my children, from my friends, from my church family, from the nurses at Methodist Hospital and from the wonderful team at PRMA. It was a life changing, lifesaving surgery.
I look forward to going back to San Antonio for stage 2 of my surgery, where I know I am in good hands.
If you have had breast cancer and you need reconstruction. I am confident you will find what you need at PRMA. Trust the experts! I am glad I did.