My Experience as a LEAD Graduate

My Experience as a LEAD Graduate I want to share my experience as a recent LEAD graduate and patient advocate. Project LEAD is part of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.  The Project LEAD Institute strongly supports the education and involvement of patient advocates in both research, action, and the education of the community they serve both locally and nationally.  You can read more about it here.  This is a portion of a statement from the web page giving you a sense and focus of the LEAD graduate program: The Project LEAD® Institute is a six-day intensive science course for breast cancer advocates covering the basics of cancer biology, genetics, epidemiology, research design and advocacy. I learned about the program through two fellow breast cancer survivors, Michael Singer, a male breast cancer survivor, and Terry Arnold, an advocate for the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Community.  I met them both at SABCS, San Antonio Breast Cancer Continue Reading →

International Day of Yoga

International Day of Yoga June 21 was proclaimed the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations in December of 2014.  I am certain there will be many celebrations across the globe practicing various levels and difficulties of this popular practice for mind, body, and spirit. The benefits of yoga are many for all ages.  I remember with great fondness the days I brought my kindergarten students in from recess when they were all wound up from being on the playground and practiced a bit of yoga with them before we would start a lesson.  We would sit quietly on the rug in circle, legs crossed, thumbs touching the middle finger as the back of the palm laid gently on the top of their knees.  I would ask them to close their eyes and take deep breaths and slowly breath out with a gentle, “Ohmmm”.  It refocused and quieted them Continue Reading →

Honoring my Father During my DIEPflap Surgery

Honoring my Father During my DIEPflap Surgery This is a perfect weekend to write a tribute honoring my Father and his support during my DIEPflap surgery.  My father is in his late 80’s now so watching me go through DIEPflap breast reconstruction two and half years ago was not an easy process for him.  He knew nothing about this type of surgery.  My Dad’s generation and friends who had radical mastectomies and survived breast cancer never knew of the options to rebuild one’s breasts after they had to be removed after a breast cancer diagnosis.  It was just assumed that the loss was part of the plan and how you would continue to live your life. I gently guided Dad and Mom through the process and why I chose to have DIEPflap breast reconstruction after my second breast cancer diagnosis.  I will admit, it was tough.  His main concern for Continue Reading →

National Cancer Survivor Day 2017 Celebrating all Survivors

National Cancer Survivor Day 2017 National Cancer Survivor Day 2017 is a movement in the fight against cancer.  How, might you ask, does that fit into my wheelhouse of educating about breast reconstruction options after mastectomy?  Yes, mastectomy!  And there is your answer.  Every person I engage with on social media, each patient I talk to about planning a course of action to reconstruct their breasts, the research and education I seek to understand and share revolves around those who have had or will be having a mastectomy because of breast cancer or a high likelihood of getting it due to a BRCA gene mutation.  My engagement through my Foundation work involves those individuals who have chosen the profession of plastic surgery, oncology, radiology, and breast surgery to serve those individuals affected by breast cancer.  Most importantly, is involves the community of survivors. How did this all happen for me Continue Reading →

The Importance of Shared Decision Making: Breast Reconstruction

The Importance of Shared Decision Making: Breast Reconstruction What is the importance of shared decision making in breast reconstruction? A recent study published on the JAMA Network site stated this in the Conclusions and Relevance portion of the article: Shared decision making is needed to support decisions about breast reconstruction. Shared decision making is a daunting, yet attainable task, for both surgeon and patient when discussing the risks associated with breast reconstruction.  The article stated: Breast reconstruction has the potential to improve a person’s body image and quality of life but has important risks. Variations in who undergoes breast reconstruction have led to questions about the quality of patient decisions. My breast reconstruction experience was successful even though met with challenges that included out of pocket costs for travel, planning and recovery, calling on family and friends to help with recovery, and subsequent surgeries for scar revision and symmetry.  It Continue Reading →

I Hope You Dance #InternationalDanceDay

I Hope You Dance #InternationalDanceDay I hope you dance on #InternationalDanceDay!  This is a story of two friends, both breast cancer survivors who are connected by one song and a passion for dance.  This story is long overdue! My friend Susan and I met as young mothers.  She had three sweet and charming daughters.  I had two amazing and delightful sons.  We spent many hours watching our youngest children play together.  Time passed and Susan and I parted ways geographically but to this day we remain close friends. I received a dreaded phone call in November of 2000 that I never expected to get.  Susan called from across the country to tell me she had breast cancer.  I began to cry on the phone.  I just wanted to be there to hug her.  I remember her words exactly.  She said, “Terri, I didn’t call to make you cry.”  That statement Continue Reading →

Quality of Life: DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

Quality of Life: DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Do you ever consider how your quality of life has changed after DIEP flap breast reconstruction?  The study from the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal compares three groups of women; those who have undergone DIEP flap breast reconstruction, women who chose no reconstruction or a method other than DIEP flap, and those in the general population who did not have breast cancer or reconstruction.  The questionnaire studies long-term quality of life after DIEP flap. A statement from the study: The DIEP technique also provides better QOL than no breast reconstruction or reconstruction using other methods, according to the study by Dr. Vincent Hunsinger of Georges Pompidou European Hospital, Paris, and colleagues. They write, “Our results indicate that DIEP breast reconstruction allows patients with breast cancer to maintain a good QOL in the long-term.” The definition of quality from the English Oxford Living dictionary: Continue Reading →

Finding a Breast Reconstruction Plastic Surgeon

Finding a Breast Reconstruction Plastic Surgeon How did you find your plastic surgeon?  This poll question was posted recently on the closed, private Facebook page supporting breast reconstruction patients.  These were the three response questions to choose from. Recommendation from another physician, if so, which one in comments please. Oncologist, breast surgeon, primary care or other? 64 respondents Online research? 20 respondents Recommendation from a friend? 17 respondents Question 1: Recommendation from another physician. Of the 64 respondents, not all listed the type of physician they received their recommendation from in the comments. Here are the results of the respondents who did comment. Breast surgeon: 37 Oncologist: 4 Primary Care 2 Other listed referrals included the following: Mammography technician Receptionist at an oncology office Nurse practitioner Breast cancer patient navigator Genetic oncologist It is interesting to note that most women got recommendations from their breast surgeons.  I was fortunate to Continue Reading →

#NationalDoctorsDay 2017

#NationalDoctorsDay 2017 Social media celebrates all number of fun holidays and today we celebrate #NationalDoctorsDay 2017.  The red carnation has become the symbol of this day to honor doctors. The challenges facing physicians today are worthy of setting aside one day a year to honor their dedication.  I have watched family members go through medical school.  The hours of training are long and arduous.  The personal sacrifice to self and family is admirable. Sub-specialties, like plastic surgery and particularly microsurgery, take even more training, more dedication, and immense skill.  The education is life-long and takes many more hours of study and exams to maintain board certification and learn the latest techniques in their chosen field.  There are long hours spent at hospitals, calls taken late into the evening, and likely some restless hours spent wondering how to solve tomorrow’s challenging medical issue with patients. We trust a physician to heal Continue Reading →

Psychological Benefits of Breast Reconstruction

Psychological Benefits of Breast Reconstruction There have been many articles written over the years regarding the psychological benefits of breast reconstruction.  When a woman or man loses a body part to breast cancer it seems reasonable to expect one would experience upset and psychological trauma no less than any other amputee.  However, the decision to remedy the amputation of the body part through breast reconstruction is not an easy process.  It means more surgery, recovery, dealing with possible side effects and complications, time off work, support from loved ones, research, and acceptance there will be lifelong scars. One of the driving factors to move forward with my own breast reconstruction after my mastectomy was to remedy the “psychological distress” I was experiencing from the loss of my breasts.  It took a full week after my mastectomy for that psychological anguish to hit home in a figurative and literal sense.  This Continue Reading →