RealSelf Breast Cancer Survivor Series, Part 1: "We Are Women Who Deserve to Still Feel Like Women"

MadsP on 1 Oct 2014 at 7:30pm

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we thought it was only fitting to shine a light on a topic that sometimes gets overlooked —  breast reconstruction surgery. Despite the fact that 92% of RealSelf users have said the procedure was worth it, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 7 out of 10 survivors don't know all of their options. This October, we'll be featuring real stories from amazing women who chose to undergo reconstruction surgery and share their journey on RealSelf. 

Reconstruction SusanRealSelf: When were you diagnosed?
Susan: I had a benign lump removed in March 2013. The surgeon who removed the lump only removed it as my mother had passed away from breast cancer after having it three times over a span of 23 years. He thought I didn't need any lumps in my breast — even if it was benign. After taking out the lump, he found tissue that he said didn't look right. He sent the tissue to pathology and found that I had CIS, premalignant tissue surrounding the lump. So in short, I didn't have cancer yet, but there was a 100% chance that I would develop it.

RealSelf: What was the most supportive thing someone said or did for you that helped you get through it?
Susan: When I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy (which was pretty much right away, especially after I met my plastic surgeon), everybody told me how brave I was. To me it was a done deal, but I've been applauded for being brave and strong, which is a very kind thing indeed. I did cry for a few weeks prior to surgery.

RealSelf: Did you immediately know you wanted breast reconstruction post-surgery? If not, what changed your mind?
Susan: I had the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on the same day. I wanted it all done at once, and had no doubt in my mind that is what I wanted. I saw my mother go through three surgeries in the 1980s and 1990s. She was brave and things have come so far since then.

RealSelf: What type of reconstruction did you have and why?
Susan: I had tissue expanders implanted at the time of my mastectomy, and then five months later I had teardrop implants and fat grafting. I have since had more fat grafting this past June.

RealSelf: What are some things you wish you’d have known before undergoing your surgery?
Susan: My surgeon pretty much explained everything to me about the surgery, but it may have been nice to know how gross the tissue expanders are. They weren't pleasant, but everything else I took in stride.

RealSelf: What advice would you give to a friend who is currently trying to decide whether to get reconstruction surgery?

Susan: I would tell a friend to go for it. We are women who deserve to still look like women and feel like women. I think that the reconstructions these days are  simply amazing compared to what my mum had to go through 20 to 30 years ago.

RealSelf: What advice would you give yourself (if you could go back)?
Susan: I wouldn't change a thing really. I had no choice to have the mastectomy for my health and the reconstruction was all part of that process.

Make sure to check back throughout the month for more powerful stories from breast cancer survivors.