A Patient Advocacy Story

A Patient Advocacy Story Breast Reconstruction Awarenss Day 2015, a patient advocacy story, begins with an inspirational moment; a moment that was a true catalyst to a new found purpose in my life. Where was the inspiration? Why would a patient become an advocate and subsequently an affiliate to promote a nationwide campaign for breast reconstruction awareness following a cancer diagnosis and mastectomy? Easy answer! The plastic surgeon I chose to do my DIEP flap surgery and the patient liaison that was my first point of contact at their group WAS my starting point. When something feels right, I move on it. It was my moment of inspiration. I was asked to share my reconstruction surgery experience with other women who were considering the same type of surgery. I wanted to pay it forward and let other women know about this group, their skill, success rate, credentials, compassion and the Continue Reading →

Managing Surgical Drains with Drain IQ

Managing Surgical Drains with Drain IQ Managing surgical drains post mastectomy and post breast reconstruction is one of the biggest grievances I hear when I speak to women about their surgery after breast cancer.  I was in that club after my own DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  I used the paper recording sheet provided by the hospital to track drain output.  Keeping track of that piece of paper and diligently recording drain output each and every time I stripped those drains was a necessary evil and part of the process for the duration they were stitched to my body. Managing Output Using your Phone? But, how many of us today have our phones with us almost as an appendage?  I am surprised to hear from ladies while still in hospital after their surgery, texting and posting on social media that they are out of surgery and recovering.  That is the brilliance Continue Reading →

What to Communicate with the Radiologist when Imaging the DIEP Flap Reconstructed Breast

What to Communicate with the Radiologist when Imaging the DIEP Flap Reconstructed Breast A Guest blog from Danielle Carroll, MD To image or not to image the reconstructed breast- that is the question…Well, actually the first question.  I am not going to tackle that topic here, but Dr. Chrysopoulo discusses this in his article “Mammograms and MRI after Reconstruction- Are They Needed?” .  However, if you decide to proceed with imaging follow-up, what is important for you to know about imaging the reconstructed breast, and how can you best convey your reconstruction status to the reading radiologist?   The reconstructed breast will undergo many changes over the first several years post reconstruction, some of which will be visible externally, some may only be seen by imaging.  The two most important pieces of information to convey to the scheduler and/or technologist are 1.  Your history of mastectomy with soft tissue reconstruction Continue Reading →

A Mother and her Sons

A Mother and her Sons I was encouraged to write a blog about a Mother and her Sons by a friend of mine who began reading my blog about a year ago.  I have avoided it until now not because I didn’t want to write it but I knew the complete emotional fortitude it would take for me to pen my feelings about my two sons.  Mother’s Day will be celebrated soon.  I love Mother’s Day because of my sons but writing this blog is appropriate each day I am a mother to these two amazing and imperfectly perfect men. What they have been asked to do as sons is beyond what anyone would want their children to go through but these two stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the ball park when it came to taking care of me not once, but twice during breast Continue Reading →

Road Map to Success for DIEP Flap Surgery: Fluorescence Imaging

Road Map to Success for DIEP Flap Surgery: Fluorescence Imaging A Patient’s Story Would you take a road trip before consulting a map, planning out your best route with the least amount of obstacles to drive around or through? Think of the SPY Elite Fluorescence Imaging System in this way for breast reconstruction surgery.  DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery is a specialized and intricate process that women have the option of choosing to rebuild their breasts after a mastectomy.  It is what I chose after a second breast cancer diagnosis. Patients are savvy, engaged, customers these days with the internet and social media to guide them in learning about the surgical procedures that they are facing.  DIEP flap surgery is intricate, long and must be done by a well-qualified microsurgeon. Choosing this profession is a passion for a majority of physicians because they are transforming lives after breast cancer.  It Continue Reading →

Guest blog: Wojciech Dec, MD

Guest blog: Wojciech Dec, MD I recently connected with  Wojciech Dec, MD after he came across my website and he asked to write a guest blog explaining the various types of breast reconstruction.  Dr. Dec is a member of The American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgeons.  ASRM is a resource I list for patients to check to see if a micro-surgeon is a member when they are seeking a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction. I particularly like his title. So with that introduction, here is Dr. Wojciech Dec’s guest blog.  The Alphabet Soup of Breast Reconstruction Surgery (Making sense of all the acronyms: TRAM, free TRAM, MS-TRAM, DIEP, SIEA, GAP, PAP, TUG, LD.)   by Wojciech Dec, MD   When I first meet with a patient to discuss her options for breast reconstruction we take a step back and look at the big picture to avoid getting bogged down in the Continue Reading →

Physical Therapy after Breast Reconstruction

Physical Therapy after Breast Reconstruction I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing my physical therapist, Leslie Drawdy, to discuss the value of physical therapy after breast reconstruction.  Before I share the information we discussed I want to share my personal story and how I came to meet Leslie. My breast surgeon, Dr. Michele Boyce Ley, advised that I begin physical therapy soon after the mastectomy that she successfully performed.  I went in for a follow up appointment after healing post-surgery and told her of onset and new shoulder discomfort, especially when I was on my computer.  Knowing how much time I spend on my computer she gave me a sheet of well-qualified physical therapists.  I chose Leslie because she is a lymphedema specialist.  Although I did not have lymphedema my thought was, who would know better about the lymphatic system and post breast cancer mastectomy patients?  I hit a Continue Reading →

Connections through the Breast Reconstruction Community

Connections through the Breast Reconstruction Community I am always amazed at the connections I have made in the #BreastReconstruction community since beginning my education and outreach through social media.  A woman I met at a Casting for Recovery weekend in October of 2015 was the patient of a well-respected micro-surgeon at Cancer Treatment Centers of American in Chicago, Dr. Daniel Liu.  When I found this out during our fishing weekend and the long conversation we had together, I told my friend how often I Tweeted with Dr. Liu and leaned heavily on his knowledge and information about plastic surgery and breast reconstruction.  We took a picture together that weekend and I Tweeted it to Dr. Liu letting him know Connie and I met and by coincidence found out we both knew him. Here we are again, six months later and these two had a meeting just this week to discuss Continue Reading →

The Psycho-social and Psycho-sexual Benefits of Breast Reconstruction

The Psycho-social and Psycho-sexual Benefits of Breast Reconstruction The psycho-social and psycho-sexual benefits of breast reconstruction have been studied in a number of peer reviewed articles.  Sharing evidence based research is a key component to my advocacy work.  It is important to me that studies have been done and data has been collected from patients who have had reconstruction to assess the impact and outcome of such a complex surgery.  These studies validate the information I share. A Personal Account of the Benefits I did a lot of research before my DIEP flap reconstruction but not specifically about the psycho-social or psycho-sexual benefits.  Keeping that in mind, this blog for me, is truly a personal account of what impact my own reconstruction had on my self-image and femininity.  I am not yet comfortable dipping my toes in the water of revealing the impact on my sexual well being as it Continue Reading →

Shared Decision Making

Shared Decision Making ~ Breast Reconstruction after Mastectomy March has been designated Shared Decision Making month, #SDMmonth, by a group I started following on social media, Informed Medical Decisions Foundation.  I participated recently in one of their online webinars on the topic.  I often tweet about shared decision making and in the practice of plastic surgery, and in particular breast reconstruction after mastectomy; I embrace the value of this practice. Two of the physicians that I have engaged with in the practice of shared decision making are my breast surgeon who performed my mastectomy and my micro-surgeon who performed my breast reconstruction.  They both embody the very definition of the phrase as defined here by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. Shared decision making (SDM) is a collaborative process that allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together, taking into account the best scientific evidence available, as well as Continue Reading →


#InternationalDayOfHappiness March 20, 2016 has been designated #InternationalDayOfHappiness. There are events, material items and people who define happiness for individuals. I believe that most of society across continents and cultures seeks happiness. It is an elusive concept difficult to defined because it is an individual response to a number of external factors. Those factors might include one’s physical surroundings, current state of health, or individuals you are with. I want to share one such day of happiness that I recently experienced and what defined happiness for me that day. It began with an invitation from friends to join in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk in our town. This same group of women invited me to go last year but I had to decline because I was days away from the second phase of my DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery. I remember fondly a group picture they texted to Continue Reading →