In March of 2015 I received a call that brought me...
31 Jul 2016
9 months post
In March of 2015 I received a call that brought me to my knees: I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a type of breast cancer, in my left breast. I was very fortunate in that my cancer was stage one (however, docs can’t definitively stage cancer until the tumor is removed and margins are clear); ER and PR positive; and HER2 negative. My tumor was approximately 6 millimeters in size, smaller than a centimeter. I was with Kaiser at the time of diagnosis, and my docs were thorough, compassionate and well-informed. The suggested treatment was a lumpectomy followed by radiation. The maternal side of my family had a significant breast cancer history and following my own diagnosis, I dove headlong into researching this wicked disease. After much soul-searching, reading, conversations, and listening, I decided to undergo a skin and nipple-sparing, bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. (Given my tumor markers I was told I’d be a strong candidate). Kaiser was very open to proceeding with this treatment. However, they would only consider one approach to the procedure: Make the incision across the breasts, rather than infra-mammary, or under the breast; insert a tissue expander; fill the expander to the desired size over the course of several month; and perform a second surgery to remove the expander and insert the implant. I knew there had to be a smarter, more advanced way to accomplish breast reconstruction. My cancer research expanded to include doctors who were proficient in cutting-edge bilateral mastectomies with immediate reconstruction (also known as one-stage reconstruction). My Kaiser doc said I should wait no longer than July to remove the cancer. While I strongly considered his advice, I knew my own body, and I knew that I – as we all do – had immeasurable power to shape my own reality. Including my Kaiser docs, I interviewed eight surgeons total, including two in San Francisco. When I found Drs. Lisa Hunsicker and Jodi Widner in Littleton, I never looked back. My path from there was long and more involved than this site has characters to capture, primarily because I needed to change my insurance plan, or pay out of pocket (my firm did not have open enrollment until September with coverage effective 1 October). On 7 October I underwent the procedure to have my breasts removed and reconstructed. I was clear on what I wanted my outcome to be. I also knew that while under anesthesia there would be discoveries not accessible through any tests and thus many unknowns. I knew that ultimately aesthetics would take a backseat to life-preservation – exactly as it should be. I trusted my doctors implicitly, and I was abundantly confident in their expertise and in my own research and constitution. Nearly 10 months later, I am healthy, cancer-free, extraordinarily happy, and immeasurably grateful! For me, there are two big oddities with my new breasts. (1) I no longer having feeling in my breasts. My nipples were never an erogenous zone for me, so that wasn’t a loss, but is something to potentially consider if it is for you. (2) Because the implant is placed under the muscle, my breasts move in whacky ways if I flex my pecs (decades ago I was a competitive bodybuilder) – you’d be surprised how often these muscles are engaged. The beautiful upsides: My chance of breast cancer recurrence over my lifetime is less than 1%; my breasts are soft, much like real breasts; my breasts will always be full and perky (understanding that in ten plus years I may have to have them replaced); my clothes look great; my lover is completely accepting and wouldn’t know if he didn’t know. There is much more to share here, and if you have ANY questions, I am more than happy to share and help you with your own journey. Most importantly, know that you are not alone, that cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence, and that you can - and if you choose - continue to thrive as you walk this path!!
My vitals: 5’9”; 145lbs; 45 y/o; healthy and fit; chest diameter 16”; implant: Mentor, high profile, round, non-textured, silicone, 800cc.