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 →

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 →

Meet my Friend, Patient Advocate & Four-time Breast Cancer Fighter

Meet my Friend, Patient Advocate & Four-time Breast Cancer Fighter This is Terlisa Sheppard. Terlisa is my friend. She is also a patient advocate and four-time breast cancer fighter. Terlisa and I met this past summer at the Project LEAD Institute graduate program along with other amazing patient advocates. I was blessed to see her again in December of 2017 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) and we put it on our schedule to commit to making this video together. I will visit this blog frequently to listen to her Journey of being a young mother diagnosed with breast cancer and now living daily with the disease. Are you inspired? I think you should be, I really do. To know that cancer is in your body in various organs and continue to look at life with a blessed, grateful disposition is nothing short of God-given, super-human constitution. Be Continue Reading →

Study of Body Mass Index post DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction: A Patient Perspective

Study of Body Mass Index post DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction: A Patient Perspective I rely on research from evidence based journals I read to understand and share the latest information about breast reconstruction and breast cancer to the community I serve. One of the journals I utilize is Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. January is a month many of us focus on health, weight loss, and losing those extra holiday pounds. As a patient advocate who has had autologous, DIEP flap breast reconstruction, I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective from a study of body mass index post DIEP flap breast reconstruction from the December 2017 issue of the Journal : The Impact of Autologous Breast Reconstruction on Body Mass Index Patterns in Breast Cancer Patients: A Propensity-Matched Analysis.  I appreciate the focus of the article. It can be read here from the final Continue Reading →

Christmas Week: A New Breast Cancer Connection

Christmas Week: A New Breast Cancer Connection I was privileged, during this week prior to Christmas, to make a new breast cancer connection. Coincidentally enough, I learned about Nadia through another breast cancer friend and colleague, Barbara Jacoby. Barbara posted an article on social media about Nadia’s generous work with breast cancer patients through her love of photography. I read that Nadia was right here in my own back yard. I reached out to her for a meeting. As is the case with many breast cancer survivors I speak with, the conversation began with an immediate hug and a feeling of connection. We both encourage moving beyond a breast cancer treatment in our own communities through our separate nonprofit foundations, DiepCFoundation.org and NadiaStrong.org. The purpose of our separate yet similar Foundations seem to collide with the same message: We encourage women and men to move beyond the diagnosis and feel Continue Reading →

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice? YES! I did make the right choice having DIEP flap breast reconstruction! Each December marks another year and anniversary of my DIEP flap surgery. I remember so much about the dark, cool, morning we left for the hospital. I was calm, prepared, and ready December 1, 2014. The time between my double mastectomy in mid-May of 2014 and my breast reconstruction were some of the most trying days of my life. In 2002, after my first breast cancer diagnosis, I had been through 2 surgeries, eighteen weeks of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of daily radiation. This was physically demanding because I was so sick and felt so weak. Fast forward twelve years to 2014. Waiting for my breast reconstruction was psychologically trying. Each month that passed after my double mastectomy only decreased my self-image as a woman due to Continue Reading →

DIEP flap Education: Boobs in the Bathroom

DIEP flap Education: Boobs in the Bathroom DIEP flap education and boobs in the bathroom?  Really? Yes! Really! When a woman has had breast reconstruction, especially when you are using your own tissue, it can be of great benefit to show other women “the goods” when they are contemplating the same surgery. The mere visual may seem a bit comical but let me share with you what I have personally experienced. There is nothing comical about hearing the words, “You have breast cancer”. It is often a mind-bending, confusing Journey for women and men to go through. We talk about it a lot on the Journey Facebook group. We have also discussed, in a half-joking manner, “Yes, I show others my boobs in the bathroom!” When your breasts have been removed after a mastectomy and then rebuilt using your own tissue, it is nothing short of miraculous to many; patient Continue Reading →