RealSelf Breast Cancer Survivor Series, Part 3: “You Can Replace What Cancer Has Taken Away"

MadsP on 22 Oct 2014 at 5:00pm

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides an opportunity to increase awareness of a disease that affects millions of women around the globe, and we’ve been honored to feature the incredible stories of three RealSelf women who overcame breast cancer and underwent breast reconstruction surgery. You can find more powerful stories from breast cancer survivors who chose to share their stories and offer support to others in the RealSelf community year-round.

Cancer Survivor TrinaRealSelf: When were you diagnosed?

Katrina: I was diagnosed September 17, 2012 — three days after what would have been my little brother’s 23rd birthday. He died the month before in August, which happened to be the same day I lost my job. So my life was very hectic: I was dealing with his death, worrying about school and employment for myself, and then I was hit with that.

RealSelf: What was the most supportive thing someone said to you or did for you that helped you get through it?
Katrina: I got the most support from the guy in my life. We are not always on the same page as far as our relationship, but he has always been there for me. It was good to have a support system in him, and because he was there with me through it all I never felt like I had to explain things. He didn’t pity me. He was there because he wanted to be. He didn’t treat me any differently and I never felt any less beautiful, even after the losing my breast, gaining weight gain, and losing hair. It helped having support from someone my own age, because the disease usually comes later in life. He helped me stay in touch.

RealSelf: Did you immediately know you wanted breast reconstruction post-surgery? If not, what changed your mind?
I was diagnosed at the age of 25, so I knew from the start that I would have reconstruction. I felt cheated — most women get to keep their natural breasts and cancer usually develops later in life. I wanted to be able to wear bikinis and dresses and get back to living my normal life.

RealSelf: What type of reconstruction did you have and why?
I ultimately chose implants, but my first thought was flap reconstruction. I didn't like the idea of having foreign objects in my body, and I hated the idea of being "fake." Besides, who wouldn't want the benefits of a tummy tuck by getting the fat from your stomach removed and put into your breast? After consideration, I choose implants because flap surgeries are very extensive; I couldn't stomach the idea of more down time and healing. I also didn't want the long scar even though I eventually would have gotten a tattoo over it. Another consideration was future children. I have one child that was delivered by C-section 8 years ago, and I was told I would have to deliver future children that way. Having flap surgery on my abdomen and possibly another C-section would have been too many surgeries on my stomach.

RealSelf: What are some things you wish you’d have known before undergoing your surgery?
I'm not sure if I knew that the mastectomy would make me lose the feeling and sensations in my nipples, so more information on that would have been helpful.

RealSelf: What advice would you give to a friend who is currently trying to decide whether to get reconstruction surgery?
I would tell the friend that it's a personal choice, but I would recommend it so that you can replace what cancer has taken away. I would tell her not to make any swift decisions but to think about all the options and what will work best for her lifestyle.

RealSelf: What advice would you give yourself (if you could go back)?
I kept myself very informed and was constantly getting information from every source I could. If I could go back and tell myself anything, I would say to not overwhelm myself, because I believe everything worked out and I made the best decisions for myself.

To read more of Katrina's story, check out her profile on RealSelf.

7 out of 10 women don't know all of their options following a mastectomy. To learn about breast cancer reconstruction, visit our Breast Cancer Awareness page.