Why do I Marvel at Breast Reconstruction & Plastic Surgery?

Why do I Marvel at Breast Reconstruction & Plastic Surgery? I ask myself this question often: Why do I marvel at breast reconstruction & plastic surgery? October was a busy month for many who work in this field and educate about this topic. I think it was one of the busiest months I had this year. I was in six states and six different airports engaging with or educating about breast reconstruction with plastic surgeons, patients, advocates, and the public. I was exhausted yet exhilarated to know the innovations and developments in the field of breast reconstruction and plastic surgery continue to keep me motivated and captivated. It has been three years since my own breast reconstruction and yet, thinking back to November of 2014 and having no breasts on my body, it is easy to understand my own fascination with this topic. When you use your own tissue to Continue Reading →

How Long Does DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery Take?

How Long Does DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery Take? This is a question I wanted to write about after attending PSTM17 in Orlando as a patient advocate. Speaking to ASPS board certified plastic surgeons at the meeting afforded me the opportunity to understand the answer to, how long does a DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery take? It is an intricate, microsurgical procedure that includes incisions and work on both the abdominal area and the breast area. The assumption is, the surgery is long. In fact, when assessing my own DIEP flap, I often report my DIEP flap lasted nine hours. What we don’t often take into consideration is what the surgery entails from start to finish. I reviewed my own surgical report to write this blog. I also spoke with plastic surgeons at PSTM17 and wanted to share some important points of discussion. I gathered information from my sister, a nurse, Continue Reading →

DEXA Scan after Breast Cancer & DIEP flap

DEXA Scan after Breast Cancer & DIEP flap It is important for many breast cancer patients to monitor their bone density health. This is a segment of a comprehensive article from the National Institute of Health. Women who have had breast cancer treatment may be at increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture. Estrogen has a protective effect on bone, and reduced levels of the hormone trigger bone loss. Because of treatment medications or surgery, many breast cancer survivors experience a loss of ovarian function and, consequently, a drop in estrogen levels. Women who were premenopausal before their cancer treatment may go through menopause earlier than those who have not had breast cancer. Results from the NIH-supported Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS) found an increase in fracture risk among breast cancer survivors. I recently had a DEXA scan and I was pleased with my results.  Let me explain why. I Continue Reading →

LIVESTRONG Class Assessment: Ready to Roll

LIVESTRONG Class Assessment: Ready to Roll Last week at our Livestrong class we had personal assessments and now we’re ready to roll.  We broke into groups to assess endurance, balance, flexibility, and strength.  This was a baseline assessment to track our progress through the three-month class. Since we divided into small groups with one trainer for each group, it was great to see the support and comradeship among class members.  We are all at different levels of treatment, recovery, and survivorship. There is breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, and brain cancer survivors. Some are using walkers or a cane for balance while others are former marathon runners who inspire me with their desire to push their physical limits at the YMCA program. Our trainers carefully watch each participant to keep us all safe within our own personal goals and boundaries. Endurance was tested with a timed three-minute walk around cones.  Continue Reading →

New Game Changer App for Anyone Impacted by Breast Cancer

New Game Changer App for Anyone Impacted by Breast Cancer I am a breast cancer survivor.  I have had breast cancer twice.  I had two lumpectomies my first diagnosis.  I relied on the visits to my oncologist and breast surgeon to inform me of my options and what the treatment, side effects, and recovery would be like that included chemotherapy and radiation.  That was in 2002.  My second diagnosis in 2014 resulted in double mastectomy.  I wore prosthesis for seven months before I decided on DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Many patients complain that their surgeons essentially just old them what their treatment would involve without much discussion.  What if someone said you can be actively involved in deciding your breast cancer treatment plan?  Many of us use a variety of apps on our mobile devices and computers every day. Those apps serve many different purposes to suit our individual needs. Continue Reading →

Livestrong First Class: Exercise after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction

Livestrong First Class: Exercise after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction Today was the first class of the Livestrong program.  I am a patient advocate for DIEP flap breast reconstruction and decided to document various points during this three-month program to give others in my community an idea of what to expect.  I do know each program is set up a bit differently and not all YMCAs across the country have the program.  I was told today it is worth calling the Livestrong Program to see if there is another facility in the area other than the YMCA.  They might be doing something similar. Today’s agenda at my YMCA: Meet and greet: Introduce yourself by saying something positive that has made you smile and happy in the past six months. My response: “My grandson, because he always makes me smile!” Filling out forms: The forms will help the trainers assess our various Continue Reading →

Delayed DIEP flap vs. Immediate Breast Reconstruction

Delayed DIEP flap vs. Immediate Breast Reconstruction Having delayed DIEP flap breast reconstruction and waking up with breast after being a breast amputee following a mastectomy is different for those who have immediate breast reconstruction. Having breast reconstruction of any kind due to breast cancer or a gene mutation is a fierce undertaking.  The women I speak to planning and recovering from surgery go through a range of emotions from diagnosis, finding they carry a gene mutation that puts them at high risk for breast cancer and through the decision to move forward with breast reconstruction. Those Range of Emotions Vary Here is a list that I often here as I discuss and speak to those planning reconstruction: sadness in losing your original breasts fear of surgery anxiety in the aesthetic outcomes worry about the new feeling of reconstructed breasts concern about their sexuality after breast reconstruction relief knowing the Continue Reading →

Livestrong: Exercise after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction

Livestrong: Exercise after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction Yesterday I began my Journey with the Livestrong program as a breast cancer survivor and to increase exercise after DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  I found out about the program when I switched oncologists in early April this year.  My oncologist discussed my overall health. I expressed my concerns about being on an AI (aromatase inhibitor) and the side effects it can have including bone loss. I told her I wanted to remain strong and fit and do what I could to maintain or increase my bone density and overall strength. She handed me a pamphlet and with a smile on her face expressed her support of the Livestrong program at the local YMCA.  I called Annemarie, the Vice President of Corporate and Community Partnerships, at our local facility to get on the list to start the program. It took a couple of months Continue Reading →

Intimacy ~ Touching your breasts after DIEP flap surgery

Intimacy ~ Touching Your Breasts after DIEP flap Surgery This blog has been sitting in my archives for quite some time.  Intimacy and touching your breast after DIEP flap surgery seems like an unabashed topic to write about. The intimacy of the content and the shared photos delayed my writing. Respect for my fellow DIEP flap sisters and touching your breasts after this surgery is not something every woman wants to do. I know this to be true because I talk to women who feel this way. I fully respect all the complexities that surround the new sensation of your DIEP flap breasts.  The purpose of my blog is to share my experience and in some way, empower breast reconstruction patients to embrace their new breasts after they have healed from surgery and to feel comfortable touching their newly reconstructed breasts. If my suggestions and story work for you, I 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 →