Celebrating Life After Breast Reconstruction
By: Courtney Floyd
What do patients say about life after breast reconstruction surgery?
Recently I reached out our PRMA Pink Lady Patient Advocate team and asked them to send a few photos my way of them enjoying life after breast reconstruction for a news story we were doing with KSAT. The photos came pouring in! As I looked at each one I felt a little tug on my heart. Seeing these beautiful captured moments of incredible women who have faced and overcome so much was truly inspiring! I have to admit; I believe I have the best job in the world! I get to serve and walk alongside these empowering women through a life changing breast reconstruction journey and they inspire me each and every day!
I loved these photos so much I had to share! Some of the women were also kind enough to share a little about how breast reconstruction has impacted their lives. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!
Reconstruction gave me a part of myself back that cancer tried to take. I feel confident and wear my scars with pride knowing I did everything I could to be here right now. During cancer treatment you fall into a treatment plan, and while you have choices, it is a regimen of one treatment or another. Reconstruction for me was the first time in the entire process that I got to choose. I chose my doctor (after consulting with several), chose my reconstruction type, and even the details within that type of reconstruction. It was the first time that I was being asked what I wanted, vs. being told what I needed. It felt empowering after being beat down by cancer, chemo and radiation. For my sister who was BRCA+, reconstruction options gave her the confidence to move forward with preventative surgeries to reduce her breast cancer risks. And while we traveled different paths we did it side by side, and for that I am grateful. I am proud of her for being so brave, and I know she is proud of me. -Misty
I can’t imagine not having immediate DIEP flap reconstruction. I had the surgery February 15, 2015 and by May I was celebrating my wedding anniversary at a resort in a bathing suit and was swimming and having a great time. It gave me the confidence to be myself without skipping a beat! I was so pleased with my results. Dr. Arishita made me the same size and shape as I was before breast cancer. He is a true genius! -Carla
I've often said, before breast cancer I was simply living but not ALIVE. I'm fortunate and blessed to be alive to share my life with family and friends but also to help others- that's part of being ALIVE. To embrace the beauty but also sadness that comes with it. The positive note is that I have the courage to do that and that's what fighting thru your breast cancer journey does. It teaches you that life will always be full of bumps, ups /downs, but you will get thru it. It's a horrible storm that no one thinks will ever end but it will, the sun comes out again, rainbows shine bright in the sky and you grow - you blossom just like a beautiful flower. I've accepted I can't control which storm comes my way but I know I can weather it and will be much stronger. The amazing part- is that I'm not alone and many have weathered similar storms and can help me - just like I can help the 1 in 8 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Or the women who lack the tools, resources or strength to know that there are many breast reconstructive options available to them. Yes, I too have good and bad days but I work hard to accept whatever it needs to be for that day- the sun will shine again and I'll be smiling and happy to be ALIVE! -Catherine
I always hoped and prayed that I would never get breast cancer again. After going through two lumpectomies, chemo and radiation plus five years of Tamoxifen, I didn’t want to travel that road again. But here I am on a new a different journey after a second breast cancer diagnosis. There was a time during my second diagnosis that I thought I would not even see my yet unborn grandchild. I have now been able to hold him in my arms. I used to say after diagnosis one that I was happy to be alive each and every day. Nothing has changed in that respect but it has now ramped up to embracing each moment of every day.
My journey this time took me down the road of reconstruction after having to go through a double mastectomy. It was through talking to other women and sharing my story about my DIEP flap reconstruction that I realized what a need there was to educate and inform others about their options for breast reconstruction. No one should be forced or even encouraged to make the decision to reconstruct their breasts after mastectomy. It is a difficult and involved process to find a qualified plastic surgeon, choose the procedure that will fit into your lifestyle and then gather your support team to help you through surgery and recovery. It is a very personal choice. But, everyone deserves and has the right to know their options so they can make an informed decision.
My second cancer diagnoses guided me to start a 501c3 Foundation to help share that information. As long as there is not a cure for breast cancer, women and men will be faced with the possibility of losing their breasts. It is truly what I feel I am supposed to be doing now, educating others about the options to rebuild their lives after breast cancer. I am grateful to my own plastic surgeon, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, and the entire group at PRMA in San Antonio for always encouraging me to continue this work. I hope every woman or man who chooses to reconstruct their breasts finds the same skill and compassion that I found with my plastic surgery group. There is fun, friendship, love and life after breast cancer! Treasure every moment and don’t apologize for any wild and crazy things you want to do! -Terri
I am so blessed that I was able to have immediate reconstruction when I had to undergo my bilateral mastectomy in July of 2014. As it was I was terrified of having breast cancer at just 32 and the thought of losing my breast on top of that added additional fear, grief, anger, etc. to what I was already feeling by the diagnosis. When I met with my doctor and nurses at PRMA, I immediately felt safe, comfortable and pretty much like family. My doctor took the time to go over the options that I had and answered all my questions throughly and with compassion. In other words... I wasn't "just another patient" and for that I am grateful. My surgery came and went and to be perfectly honest recovery was hard, but we got through it. I say "we" because my family was such a huge support and were there with me every step of the way in one way or another. I'm not going to lie... It did take me several months to actually look at my newly reconstructed breast and when I did I was very, very, very surprised! I honestly didn't know what I was going to see or how I was going to react, but my breast looked so real and my scaring wasn't at all what I was expecting to see. For some reason I was thinking Frankenstein like, but that was NOT the case at all. As time went on, I started to notice I would look at myself in the mirror more and more and felt good about what I saw. Especially after my nipple reconstruction and tattooing.... My breast look GREAT!!
I am truly enjoying life after breast cancer and I can honestly say that my Faith along with what I see in the mirror contributes to that! I get excited when I buy a new bra or shirt/dress and see how fantastic my breast look and even feel. Sometimes I stare and look down probably more than I should LOL but I am truly in awe of how they bounce just like the real ones! Hahahaha
I didn't ask for this chapter, but it is a part of my story and I am going to continue to move forward with enjoying life.... looking and feeling beautiful, confident, sexy and most of all... WHOLE!! -Amanda