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 →

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 →

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 →

My Double Mastectomy: Three Years Later

Double Mastectomy: Three Years Later May 15, 2014, I was sitting in a hospital room recovering from a double mastectomy.  Why am I smiling so much in the photo?  The answer: I just finished a phone conversation with my parents.  They live a little over one thousand miles from me.  I couldn’t believe how little pain I was in and how good I felt.  It was important to me that they hear my voice. Both my Mother and Father were in disbelief that I was calling them. Just 24 hours before, they were on alert at their home waiting for the phone call to let them know I was out of surgery and doing well.  When I mentioned to them I was heading home in a couple of hours after the call, they were even more surprised.  I could hear the sense of relief in their voices over the phone. Continue Reading →

Support During DIEP Flap Surgery

Support During DIEP Flap Surgery Finding support during DIEP flap breast reconstruction is paramount to the success and recovery of your surgery.  When I speak to others who are contemplating this type of breast reconstruction one of the first questions I ask is, “Do you have a support system?”  I follow that with the statement, “You will need it for this surgery!” Support during DIEP flap can include a variety of individuals both personal and professional.  I wanted to take a retrospective look at the support women had for their DIEP flap surgery.  I posted this question in the on-line support group I administer for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Name the three people who you found the greatest support from during your own DIEP flap breast reconstruction process. Breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, family members and friends can look at the replies from these women who have already had DIEP, who 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 →

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 →