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 My PTSD occurs because I was diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic and seven days later the diagnosis was retracted.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 →

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 →

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 →

Collaboration in Educating about Breast Reconstruction

Collaboration in Educating about Breast Reconstruction My favorite word throughout my education career has always been “collaboration”. So is the case now in my role as Founder of DiepCFoundation.org. I couldn’t feel any stronger about collaboration in educating about breast reconstruction. The change leaders I have met in the past three years on my own personal quest to educate more women and men about options in breast reconstruction motivate me daily to do more, explore new avenues to educate, support them in their mission, and stand beside them collaboratively to continue this work. This week on my social media feeds I have seen an announcement by Patricia Anstett that her book, Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction, What’s Right for You, is now out on paperback on Amazon. Congratulations are in order as this was a professional labor of love for Pat. Full disclosure: Yes! I’m featured in the book and Continue Reading →