"Breast" Friends and a Journey Home
By: Terri Coutee
A friend is someone you can easily relate to; someone who you can trust and who understands your emotions and feelings. A friend is someone who makes a positive impact on your life, someone who meets and answers your needs and does so willingly without expecting anything in return. You know that a friendship is true when you think of that person in their absence. You wonder how they are doing, or miss the sound of their laughter or lilt in their voice.
But what if you had never met that friend, ever? What if you had only spoken on the phone? Then what if you had the opportunity to meet that friend in person? Would you take it? Of Course! Would it change your friendship? Probably not, especially if you sensed the bond between you both just by chatting on the phone.
I was given that opportunity recently when I made a trip home to visit family. The opportunity really began on December 1, 2014, one of the single most life-changing days ever for me. I had DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery after a second diagnosis of breast cancer. The surgical group that I chose, PRMA in San Antonio, started a remarkable volunteer patient advocacy group soon after my initial consult in October of 2014. I jumped on board after being asked by Courtney, PRMA’s patient liaison, to help other women navigate the reconstruction journey. I had no idea the impact it would have on my life but am forever grateful for being asked to be a part of it.
Angie was the name of the first woman I was ever asked to contact. I had just finished a phase 1 video for PRMA and Courtney explained Angie’s story to me. Angie had her mastectomy within a month of when I had mine in the spring of 2014. She, like I had complications along the way that wore us both down emotionally and physically. I contacted Angie very soon after Courtney gave me her name. What a pleasant surprise and what a great first contact! Angie was so positive and so excited to be on the schedule at PRMA. I had Dr. Chrysopoulo as my surgeon and Angie would be seeing Dr. Arishta. Even though we didn’t have the same surgeons we both felt so comforted by the care that was shown to us at PRMA.
Her DIEP surgery was scheduled for late January, 2015. I could share with her first hand information about how to prepare, what to pack, how to make travel easier and what to expect during the surgery and healing process. I could just feel everything she was going through, her fears, her exhaustion, her need to organize and prepare. Our friendship and connection was seamless. I was so excited to see Angie on a video that she made for PRMA after her phase 1. Seeing what she looked like and how she was doing made me feel an even closer bond to her.
I had my phase 2 surgery April 3, 2015. Again, I made another video to explain the process and healing part of phase 2. I continued to stay in touch with Angie and guide who through the phase 2 process. But out friendship was becoming stronger. We shared laughter, funny post-surgical garment stories, family stories (we both raised boys!) and so much more. Angie made a phase 2 video when she completed that part of her reconstruction. We were truly connected as “breast friends”.
It was in early May that I planned a trip home to Kansas to see my family. I found out throughout our chats that Angie resides in a town that was only a couple of hours from where my parents live. I just had to meet her in person so we made it happen. I had to hug this woman who I had shared so much of this journey with.
My mother and oldest sister traveled the two hours with me to Angie’s house. Angie took the extra time off over her lunch hour to accommodate my visit. She even had her boys prepare a delicious lunch for us to enjoy. My Mother and my sister were so in awe as they witnessed our first meeting and listened to us talk non-stop about our experience. They watched in respectful silence as Angie and I made yet another video honoring both of our plastic surgeons and what they had done for us. They watched as we made that video and laughed and shared just how we had met.
I wanted to share this video so that you can witness the beauty of this friendship and know that having a best friend is wonderful but ….
Having a “breast friend” is priceless!