When Breast Cancer Patients Experience PTSD

When Breast Cancer Patients Experience PTSD When breast cancer patients experience PTSD, it can be triggered for several reasons. My own experience leads me to understand what triggers my PTSD after a second breast cancer diagnosis. I realize it is important to learn to control the mechanism that triggers the response. How do I do this? Awareness, speaking to others who have been through it and how they manage their own PTSD after breast cancer, realigning my thoughts to conquer the fear that PTSD brings on. My PTSD occurs because I was diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic and seven days later the diagnosis was retracted. I lived with that diagnosis for a week. I told my family and friends and they were sucked into the dark vortex that is the result of such a diagnosis. What happened? My healthcare team ordered scans after my second diagnosis. They saw lesions on Continue Reading →

ERAS Protocol Breast Reconstruction

ERAS Protocol Breast Reconstruction A little over a year ago I learned about ERAS protocol as it pertains to breast reconstruction from the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap. ERAS, Enhanced Recovery after Surgery, protocol was not in place at the time I had breast reconstruction in December of 2014.  I wrote a blog about our conversation and what I learned. I have been reading several social media posts about ERAS and the benefits to patients. One study shared recently on Twitter states in the conclusion of the study: Conclusion: Enhanced recovery pathway program implementation should be considered as the standard approach for perioperative care in autologous tissue-based breast reconstruction because it does not affect morbidity and is associated with accelerated recovery with reduced postoperative opiate use and decreased length of hospital stay, leading to downstream health care cost savings.  ~ Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons ERAS Continue Reading →

The Value of a 2nd Opinion for Breast Reconstruction

The Value of a 2nd Opinion for Breast Reconstruction The value of a 2nd opinion for breast reconstruction is fortunately something that has the potential to give women hope if they have been turned down at an initial consult for autologous breast reconstruction. I had the fortune to talk with two board certified microsurgeons, Dr. David Song of MedStar Georgetown and Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo of PRMA in San Antonio. Both plastic surgeons successfully and routinely perform a variety of autologous flap surgeries with great success. What is autologous breast reconstruction? Autologous breast reconstruction is using another area of the patient’s body using the tissue and underlying blood vessels to create a soft, warm, new breast after a mastectomy. Why are women sometimes turned down by plastic surgeons or told they are not good candidates for autologous breast reconstruction? Here are some of the reasons Dr. Song and Dr. Chrysopoulo mention Continue Reading →

Patient Advocacy: Shared Decision Making in Breast Reconstruction

Patient Advocacy: Shared Decision Making in Breast Reconstruction When does your voice matter in patient advocacy in the shared decision-making conversation of breast reconstruction? The sum of events helps me answer this question in my advocacy work. I have a voice, true. However, my voice only becomes amplified by the support, connections, and personal interaction I make through social media with those interested in this topic; plastic surgeons and patients who have lived the experience. Shared decision making in breast reconstruction after mastectomy means a process the patient and plastic surgeon engage in, resulting in the choice the patient believes is in their best interest. It includes but is not limited to the suggestions made by the plastic surgeon based on skill and years of expertise, being given all options for breast reconstruction, discussing risks and complications, and listening to and respecting the voice of the patient and what they Continue Reading →

Waiting for Authorization for Breast Reconstruction

Waiting for Authorization for Breast Reconstruction It can take enormous patience for breast cancer patients who are waiting for authorization for their breast reconstruction procedure. I was once there. Now I am an advocate for all options of breast reconstruction after mastectomy. I interact with patients daily. Many times, their questions are a catalyst for topics to write a blog. Amplifying our voices to educate is part of patient advocacy responsibility. I recently received an email from a patient who was denied coverage for a revision phase of her reconstruction. Her plastic surgeon even wrote an appeal, but it was still denied. She reached out to me for help and suggestions about what to do. I take a deep breath when I get these emails and step out of my breast cancer survivor role and put on my patient advocate hat. I don’t want to offer false hope, but I Continue Reading →

A 3-year Anniversary: Blogging About Breast Reconstruction

A 3-year Anniversary: Blogging About Breast Reconstruction I am celebrating a 3-year anniversary blogging about breast reconstruction on March 17, 2018. When Did I Begin Blogging About Breast Reconstruction? It began as a cathartic experience after having successful DIEP flap surgery in early December of 2014. While I was at home healing, the events and challenges I faced the year after a second breast cancer diagnosis began to flood my thoughts daily. I put my M.Ed. program on hold to focus on my health. I met with a friend and artist in early January, 2015. We sat down together and planned two things; the artistic backdrop and platform for my blog on WordPress and an opening date, March 17, 2015. We are both Irish and it was a good goal. We met many times afterward to hammer out details. We hit our target date and celebrated together over a pint Continue Reading →

We are Journey Strong! #IWD2018

We are Journey Strong! #IWD2018 We are Journey Strong! #IWD2018. We are Journey Strong and today we celebrate each other on #IWD2018! We do not wear black dresses on the red carpet in solidarity at televised award shows. We do not march the streets holding signs to promote our cause. But make no mistake, we are a band of women with strength, grit, compassion, and a sense of solidarity for each other few know about. We are a group of over 1,600 women who have all faced breast cancer and losing our breasts after mastectomy. The only garments and accessories we wear in solidarity are compression garments and surgical drains. Some of us have become entrepreneurs on each other’s behalf to develop products to hold those drains with greater ease after mastectomy or breast reconstruction surgery. Some of us have opened nonprofit organizations to support one another financially, spiritually, through Continue Reading →

Caregiver Burnout: Who Is Your Wing Man?

Caregiver Burnout: Who Is Your Wing Man? I have been watching as tragedy unfolds on TV these past two weeks with discussion and protests of yet another violent act in the classroom and brick and mortar I spent so many years and hours in as an educator before opening my Foundation. And yet, it is a blur to me as it runs across news feeds in the hospital room and rehab facility I have spent so much time in the past two weeks. This part of my Journey began February 14, Valentine’s Day. My sister picked me up from the airport and we went straight to the hospital to begin my current role as caregiver to my Dad. The past month has been an emotional mixture for me. This is the first time I have been able to write a blog for weeks. My life was filled to the brim Continue Reading →

Patient Reported Outcome Measurement in Plastic Surgery & Breast Reconstruction

Patient Reported Outcome Measurement in Plastic Surgery & Breast Reconstruction Patient Reported Outcome Measurement (P.R.O.M.s) are a way to improve plastic surgery and breast reconstruction. Dr. Roy Kim, San Francisco Plastic Surgery, points out that with the development of P.R.O.M.s in the future, the hope is that a broader audience of participants including a more diverse female group both in ethnicity and socio-economic levels, will be included. By engaging both patient advocacy groups and breast reconstruction practices, better data could evolve to be more statistically valid information and help more patients. How and Why are P.R.O.M.s done? Patients do surveys of their plastic surgery and breast reconstruction results/experience. Data is collected and saved. The data becomes statistically significant The data helps with various procedures in breast surgery, plastic surgery, and various breast reconstruction. P.R.O.M.s started with an on-line group to measure patient outcomes. Academic Centers will want to collect this data Continue Reading →

Breast Cancer Patients Paying It Forward

Breast Cancer Patients Paying It Forward I have met so many breast cancer patients paying it forward after they have been diagnosed with the disease. I see these pay it forward breast cancer survivors writing blogs and sharing their lived experience. Some breast cancer survivors have opened nonprofit organizations to support and assist others going through healing and recovering from the devastation this disease can have on a person. Still others have become fierce advocates. They research and explore the science of breast cancer, clinical trials or they “go to the hill” to make policy changes in breast cancer care. It is inspiring and honestly keeps me focused and stimulated to continue my own DiepCFoundation work. I was recently the beneficiary of a breast cancer patient paying it forward from her own nonprofit organization, Nadia Strong, Beautiful Beyond Breast Cancer. Nadia’s mission is to empower women through breast cancer with Continue Reading →