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 →

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 →

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 →

Summer Blogging Challenge!

Summer Blogging Challenge! Summer blogging challenge accepted fellow blogger, Nancy!  I have had a whirlwind week but after reading three responses from fellow bloggers, you, Rebecca Hogue, and Britt Lee, how could I not chime in? I have another fellow breast cancer and breast reconstruction pal coming to visit this weekend so my answers are going to be short and well…. hopefully sweet! Share anything you want about your cancer diagnosis (or your loved one’s). Share your age, cancer type, stage, when you were diagnosed, family history (if any), your reaction, how you learned the news, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing.  Diagnosis #1: 2002 included two lumpectomies; 18 weeks of chemotherapy including the “red devil” that landed my Irish ass in the hospital with low blood counts; 6 weeks of daily radiation; 5 years of Tamoxifen Early stage; No family history… yep, I’m the designated family poster child…. That’ll do 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 →

DIEP flap Belly button

DIEP flap Belly button Did you know you’ll be getting a new belly button if you choose to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction after a mastectomy?  The study referenced in this blog uses the medical term, umbilical reconstruction, known to most of us as the belly button.  We’re approaching belly button season so I wanted to share this part of my DIEP flap surgery along with the study while having a bit of fun with this post, too! I had the privilege of meeting one of the authors of the study last year at Plastic Surgery the Meeting (#PSTM16) in Los Angeles, Dr. Samuel Lin.  He is a kind gentleman with a warm smile and easy to chat with.  It is apparent he is very dedicated to his profession.  Dr. Lin presented the paper at AAPS (American Association of Plastic Surgeons) meeting in Austin, Texas this year.  I became interested 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 →

You Come First after Breast Reconstruction

You Come First after Breast Reconstruction One of the best pieces of advice I can give to those I talk to planning their surgery, “You come first after breast reconstruction.”  It is a very difficult concept and mantra to adopt when you are so used to caring for others.  It is particularly challenging for those who go into breast reconstruction feeling healthy and fit, going about their daily routine of cooking, cleaning, carpooling, mothering, caring for others, and working a full-time job.  A sudden change in that routine is hard to wrap your mind around.  Believe me, it stops very suddenly after breast reconstruction but it IS temporary and so worth taking the time to put yourself first. We don’t realize how much bending, twisting, and lifting we do each day.  I have been on the phone with individuals answering questions about the recovery process.  While I am speaking with Continue Reading →

ERAS ~ Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

ERAS ~ Enhanced Recovery After Surgery I love it when I can say, “I learned something new today” and last week it was about ERAS, Enhanced Recovery After Surgery.  I was having a conversation with the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap breast reconstruction, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo.  I asked him if there were new protocols or changes in patient care during recovery in the two years since my DIEP flap surgery.  A smile came across his face and I could tell he couldn’t wait to tell me about ERAS.  He eloquently told me about the philosophy and implementation of this protocol and I was captivated.  It must have been the look of complete amazement on my face because he smiled and said, “You should write a blog about it.”  Nothing like a little challenge from a world class micro-surgeon to bequeath a bit of pressure for my next writing Continue Reading →

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Sights and Sounds of the Hospital

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Sights and Sounds of the Hospital Your senses can become fine tuned to the sights and sounds of the hospital stay after your DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  Whether you have been in hospital before or not there are many things to deal with when you are out of the comfortable environment of your own home and bed.  Our five senses, taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing, connect us to everything around us.  Let’s look at what that means while recovering from DIEP flap breast reconstruction during your hospital stay. Tastes The taste that you have in your mouth post-surgery can only be described by the individual.  My perception is one of a medicinal, antiseptic taste.  You have been anesthetized for a long period and the drugs used will linger on the tongue.  Your mouth will be dry and you will not be allowed fluids of any kind Continue Reading →