Breast Cancer Survivor Stories
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeons Serving Denver, Lone Tree, Colorado & Nationwide
When I was diagnosed with a second breast cancer ten years after the first one, I was simultaneously shocked, angry, and sad. The first time, I had chosen to go the route of lumpectomy, radiation, and chemo. This time, I chose a double mastectomy, feeling like I couldn’t do this a third time. I researched my reconstruction options and had pretty much decided to do nothing…until I met with my surgeon. She directed me to the Drs. Williams and told me that I should at least check out my options since they were doing some pretty spectacular surgery.
From the moment I called, I was totally impressed with the kindness and professionalism of the staff. I was grateful as they juggled appointment times so that I could be seen quickly. As my husband and I met with Dr Jeremy Williams, we immediately felt comfortable and hopeful for the first time in a number of weeks. We were impressed with his kindness, honesty, and his ability to explain the surgery he was proposing. He and his entire staff were so gracious and hope-instilling that it was impossible not to leave feeling positive, supported and excited to have found a reconstructive alternative that was reasonable to us.
I have had nothing but the most positive of experiences this past year as I’ve recovered from my DIEP Flap and subsequent surgeries. The warmth of each interaction has made my journey an easy one. I appreciate that, at each step, Dr Jeremy Williams has made me feel that my recovery is the most important thing there is. I was sharing with him my last visit that I feel fabulous about the results of my surgery. I know that I could change clothes in a locker room quite easily without anyone even knowing that I chose a double mastectomy to fight my breast cancer. As a mother of two daughters, I am so grateful, not only for me, but also for them, that there is a surgery that maintains self-esteem and a sense of femininity and that Dr Williams and the staff are dedicated to a medical practice that preserves this.
This testimonial is a very emotional thing for me to commit to paper. I want people to hear my story though.
I went for a routine mammogram in July 2009 never expecting to get news that would change my life. I was told that a lump was found in my right breast and that I would need to go for a biopsy. I received the news that I had CANCER the middle of August. It struck me like a thunderbolt. I then had a tough decision to make - lumpectomy or mastectomy. After talking to friends, family members, doctors, and after lots of internet research, I decided to opt for a double mastectomy with reconstruction, even though the cancer was in a very early stage (1A.) I chose this option because I didn’t want to wake up every morning wondering if this was the day the cancer would come back. Several of my friends who had lumpectomies, later had a recurrence of cancer.
On August 31, 2009, with my husband, two children, and future son-in-law in tow, I went in for the surgery that would remove both breasts and give me implants instead. After 10 hours of surgery, I woke up to a few new body changes. The cancer was removed and I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy, but I do to take Anastrozole (Arimidex) for five years. It inhibits the production of estrogen.
On December 17, 2009, I had to have another surgery because the left implant was falling. After that, I was in and out of the hospital three more times in my home town for infections and fluid accumulation. On July 1, I had to have the left implant removed due to a life threatening infection. After I healed, my cosmetic surgeon said he didn’t know what else to do for me because my body rejected everything he tried. He suggested I investigate Diep flap surgery. The closest doctors who performed this surgery were in Denver, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Salt Lake City. I decided to go to Denver to Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery because the information on their website answered many of my questions and the qualifications of the doctors were impressive. I went for a consultation in November 2010 and after talking with Dr. Chris (Williams), I knew I wanted to proceed. Dr. Williams told me he thought my continued problems were in a large part related to the stress of my job. I was a Special Education teacher for behaviorally challenged kindergarten to third grade children.
After much soul searching, I decided to quit my job at the end of the school year, a job, I might add, I loved with all my heart. But my health came first and I knew that if I didn’t make this change, I would continue to have complications.
I went to Denver to Sky Ridge Hospital and had a 14 hour surgery on July 2, 2011 to remove the remaining implant and use my abdominal fat to do the reconstruction. Dr. Williams was at the hospital at midnight to check on me and again at 6:30 AM. I knew I was in good hands. I stayed in Denver 16 days so Dr. Williams could perform follow up exams and to be close if there were any complications. In mid-July I was finally able to come home. I had nipple reconstruction and some liposuction on August 25, 2011, and tattooing on December 29, 2011. I have not had any complications and am so very happy with the results. Dr. Chris and the staff of Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery were always available by phone (I live 7 hours from Denver) any time I had questions. I owe these people my life. I would recommend Dr. Williams and all of the staff at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery and Diep flap surgery for any cancer patient who is thinking of having implants. My resulting breasts look and feel like the breasts I was born with.
A cancer diagnosis certainly changes your life, but it doesn’t have to be a bad change. Hold on tight to family and friends and don’t be afraid to cry. Live day to day and have faith that things will get better.
I am willing to talk to anyone who is thinking of having this surgery or struggling with decisions relating to a diagnosis of breast cancer.
I came to Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery in September of 2010 as a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient facing a double mastectomy. From my first phone call and thru my recovery, Dr Chris and company have made this year completely stress free. Dr. Chris and his amazing nursing staff helped me deal with and recover from my DIEP Flap and Chemotherapy. The DIEP Flap procedure gave me beautiful new breasts and a flat stomach. Dr Chris has an incredible passion for his cancer patients and his knowledge, patience, and techniques are second to none.
As far as the actual DIEP Flap surgery, it was much less traumatic and painful than I thought it was going to be. Dr. Chris had gone into detail about all the potential complications and I was so nervous going into surgery. Coming out of surgery was much easier than going in for me! The cancer was gone and I had new breasts all in the same day. The ICU and the extra day in the hospital was no big deal and I was glad to get home.
I cannot take pain medicine but the pain was very manageable. The only thing I despised were 4 drains in my breasts and stomach. My kids nicknamed me Medusa and I couldn’t wait to have them out! Through the next couple of months, Dr. Chris and staff became my friends! I also started chemotherapy so going to PMCS became something I enjoyed. They always said I looked beautiful even though I was bald! I also went to physical therapy and that was very relaxing.
Eight months later, I had a minor surgery in the office to get nipples and some fat grafting. One word of advice: Don’t wear those nipple protectors at the TSA screening because you will get stopped. I think they thought I had a bomb on my nipples! Two months later, I had my last treatment to get tattooed to have perfect breasts. During this year long process, I had no complications other than a small wound issue and now my breasts look amazing.
I have learned through this “journey” year that having breast cancer is not the end of my life. In fact, it has reenergized me and I feel like I received a new lease on life. So many people come up to me and complement me on how much better I look. I don’t want to tell them it was breast cancer and chemotherapy but I do tell them I received a new body because of Dr’s Williams and their team of nurses and support staff. I feel like Dr. Chris is Michelangelo and I was his sculpture!! Thanks for making this breast cancer survivor whole again.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 11 years my immediate thoughts were “this means a mastectomy and then I will need to find some means of reconstruction.” I was not thrilled with the reconstruction techniques I was aware of. I did not like the idea of an implant which was a foreign matter in my body and would have to be replaced down the road. I understood that a TRAM flap would compromise my abdominal muscles which I depend on for an active life. My goal was to have a healthy body that could keep me active and to not have to get dressed with extra pieces for the next 50 years.
I was thrilled to discover the DIEP reconstruction option in my research and to discover a team doing this technique here in Colorado. From my first consultation with Dr Jeremy to my final appointment declaring that we are finished, I have felt supported and encouraged. Drs Jeremy and Christopher are knowledgeable, experienced, skilled and caring. The ladies on staff at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery Center have all been supportive, professional, and capable. I have been treated as a real person and not as a body part. Even the hospital stay at Sky Ridge Medical Center was much better than any other hospital experience I have had in my life so far.
DIEP reconstruction surgery is a process and journey. There are several steps and it takes a year or more to get to the end. As with any journey there are ups and downs. But I am thrilled with the results and felt supported and cared for all along the way. I reached my goal of a cancer free body that has all its muscles still in the intended places functioning as designed. I don’t have to get dressed with any extra pieces. I had a unilateral mastectomy and reconstruction and the match with my native side is amazing. I just wore an elegant dress to my daughter’s wedding and had no concerns at all about how my new body looks. Thank you Drs Williams, Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery staff and Sky Ridge for taking care of me.
I want to shout to all the woman in the world that I’ am a Breast Cancer Survivor and only because of early detection. You have the power to help save your life and others by spreading the word about early detection. I’m very lucky to be here today to say this to all the beautiful woman in the world. Let’s fight all we can to find a cure for Breast Cancer and all forms of Cancer. Let’s not do this alone. I had a wonderful support group of family and friends that helped me get through my ordeal. And to thank the wonderful Team of Doctors who made it possible for me to feel natural and beautiful again. So as I take on a new chapter of my life I have the power to be a Survivor.
“Yes these are fake, my real ones tried to kill me!” This is a t-shirt slogan that really speaks to me. Seven years ago plastic surgery was something that was not even on my radar. I never thought of myself as a plastic surgery kind of girl. However, sometimes life gives us challenges that we weren’t planning for and for me that challenge was a diagnosis of breast cancer. Over the past seven years the term “boob job” has taken on a whole new meaning.
In early 2006 I had a mastectomy followed by several months of chemotherapy and radiation. In the initial days of that process I was referred to Dr. Jeremy Williams to see what my options were in the area of breast reconstruction. From the first appointment with Dr. Jeremy I felt I had an advocate in negotiating the frightening situation I found myself in. Over the last seven years that feeling of having an advocate has only gotten stronger. Dr. Jeremy has been a constant source of encouragement and “possibility thinking” as I have gone through the various stages of treatment. I have never been made to feel like I was just another number in a long line of patients, never felt like Dr. Jeremy was speaking to me with his hand on the doorknob of the exam room trying to get me to hurry up so he could move on to the next person.
Over the years I have had more revisions than a high school term paper! I originally had an implant and many surgeries were done to try to remove scar tissue that continued to form around it. Dr. Jeremy talked to me about his new partner, Dr. Chris Williams and their extensive training for a new type of surgery called DIEP flap. He explained how this would be a good option for me and would give me my best shot at not needing any more surgeries to achieve the type of appearance I was hoping for. I wanted to be the first one in Colorado to have the surgery! However, it took time for my schedule to match with the doctor’s schedules and I had the surgery in 2010. I had a mastectomy on the other side at the same time as the DIEP flap surgery and I have never regretted the decision for a minute. I love going to Mexico as often as possible and I love that I can wear a two-piece swim suit and be happy about the way I look.
My experience with Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery has definitely been great! I am so glad I chose to go to this particular practice. The doctors are kind and skilled. The office staff and nursing staff are the best of any doctor’s office I have been to. I walk in feeling like I am their favorite and leave having had some fun conversations. I am so thankful that women with breast cancer can have surgeries for reconstruction paid for by insurance and I am very thankful for the folks at Park Meadows.
Hearing the words “you have a rare form of breast cancer called metastatic Carcinoid tumors” can be the most frightening phrase a woman will ever hear. A range of emotions from fear, to anxiety and especially uncertainty start to take shape. Thankfully, there are treatments and medical professionals who live right here in Colorado who dedicate their lives to helping women survive their diagnosis. I researched and interviewed several.
I feel that I was extremely blessed to encounter Dr Christopher Williams, a plastic surgeon at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery. Despite the trauma of the emotional pain at that time, meeting with Dr Christopher Williams soon put me at ease. I was impressed with his knowledge, professionalism and kindness. He not only explained the benefits of reconstructive surgery, he provided me a CD for me to watch which enlightened my educational process. Additionally, I liked knowing how many breast reconstructive surgeries he had already performed. I learned that I was a candidate for the DIEP flap procedure, the most advanced form of breast reconstruction.
My reconstructive surgery lasted ten hours. Although that may sound like it was grueling for me, it was heart wrenching for my family was well. Dr Williams was wonderful. He appointed a special nurse to keep watch over me in the OR. She, in turn, provided hourly updates to my husband and both of my daughters. After he had completed the intricate procedure, he continued to monitor my vitals while I was in the ICU via his smart phone. He even provided my family with his cell phone number.
Carcinoid cancer can provide some unique surgery challenges. Unfortunately, my body presented Dr Williams with some of these challenges. I can’t praise him enough for everything he did for me. Through each one of my surgeries and each one of my challenges, his optimism, professionalism, respect and kindness also resonated through the Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery staff, including patient coordinator, office receptionist, experienced nurse personnel, and appointment schedulers. If I entered the office upset or fearful, I left feeling calm and secure. I would never have dreamed that this journey would have such a positive impact on my life. I am so pleased with my reconstruction. I have the body that I really never had before the mastectomy. I have smaller breast and a flat stomach!
I sincerely thank everyone at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery for their dedication to me and to each and every one of their patients. The slogan that both Dr. Williams’ wear on their surgical caps, “We Care DIEPly”, the double-entendre is a true representation of how much these doctors care about their patients.
The first thing that comes to my mind regarding Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery is the level of care and compassion offered by everyone in the office. From the moment I entered the office for the first time, I knew I was in good hands. The staff at Park Meadows has been with me every step of the way through my journey. Dr. Christopher Williams and the nurses patiently explained to me everything involved in the reconstructive process and continually encouraged me when I was not feeling very good about my appearance. During my initial visits to the office, I remember Dr. Williams telling me I would come out of this experience looking better than I did before the reconstructive surgery. At the time I could not imagine ever feeling normal again, but it’s true, when I compare the “before” pictures with the “after” pictures, the results are nothing short of astonishing. I have become accustomed to my other doctors gasping in amazement when I go in for my check-ups. There is absolutely nothing about the appearance of my chest area that would cause anyone to suspect that I have had extensive reconstructive surgery, other than the fact that I look very, very good for someone my age who has had two children. I know that the staff at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery treats all of their patients with the same care and compassion they extended to me and you should feel reassured that they will do their very best to provide you with the best possible reconstructive experience.
Picture this…life is moving along beautifully. You are seven years out from your final chemotherapy session with no signs of the return of breast cancer, your children are heading into their college careers, you are re-entering the dating world and your 22 year old daughter is thinking of getting breast implants and wants your opinion. Life is good! I decide that my oncologist would be the best person to ask regarding my daughters options. She again suggests that I take the genetics test to see if I carry the BRCA gene. No problem, I think, I will do this for my daughter; besides, it will come back negative because I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family other then myself and my half sister on my Dad’s side. You could have picked me up off of the Dollar Store floor when I received the phone call that the test had come back positive. I had never really considered how I would feel if it came back positive. The simple inquiry about my daughter and if she should have implants had all of a sudden became “about me”.
After some genetic counseling, I chose to have a complete hysterectomy and mastectomy - in that order and in the course of six months…you know how insurance dictates your decisions due to their deductibles and co-insurances! The hysterectomy went smoothly and I was then on to making the next decision - who would I use for my mastectomy, who would I use for my reconstruction, and which procedure would be best for me. SO MANY OPTIONS! Latissimus Flap, TRAM Flap, DIEP Flap, yes implants, no implants and on and on. I went from doctor to doctor educating myself and trying to make a decision. The first doctor I had an appointment with began showing me his photo album full of people and their final results. I immediately began to panic-I can’t do this! I don’t want to look like those women! Nothing looked natural, symmetrical or even somewhat close to original. I also had the added complication that whichever doctor I chose had to deal with radiated tissue on the side that I had the cancer on. Not an ideal situation by any means and was told that this would negatively alter my final results.
After visiting a plethora of doctors, someone mentioned Dr. Jeremy Williams. I wasn’t sure I could handle one more option. My mother continued to say, “Just go and find out what makes him different and that way you won’t always wonder, ‘What if’”. I conceded and made an appointment with this “Dr. Williams” even though I had already decided on someone else and was already working with his receptionist to schedule a day for the surgery.
I AM SO GLAD I WENT! Why are mothers always right?!? Not only was Dr. Williams extremely patient in explaining his DIEP Flap procedure thoroughly, he was so personable which is very important to me. His staff was just as outstanding. In the process of discussing the procedure, I mentioned that my surgeon was planning on doing a nipple sparing option since I wasn’t actively fighting cancer. Dr. Williams was open to trying this along with his plan even though it had never been done before. After my appointment, I went home and called the references the office staff had given me and heard nothing but wonderful comments on all levels regarding Dr. Williams and the clinic.
My decision was made – I was going to have the DIEP Flap procedure and I was actually excited about it! My breasts were going to feel normal, have a normal body temperature, have minimal scarring, have the original nipples and the bonus…a flat tummy!!!! Who would have thought that this situation could have such a positive outcome?
All through the pre-op appointments, surgery and post-op appointments, I never felt alone. Dr. Williams and his staff were there anytime I had a question, concern or simply needed someone to talk to. I didn’t feel like just another “standard” procedure to them; I was treated as if I were the only person they had ever performed this on. Although the recovery was a bit daunting, I think it would have been the same with any other option I may have chosen.
I recently had my final two-year follow-up appointment and couldn’t be happier. If there is anyone who has questions, concerns, fears or simply curiosity regarding this amazing procedure, feel free to ask for my phone number. I would love to talk with you and answer any questions you may have-I’m not a very modest person. In addition to all of these wonderful outcomes, I have also been able to jump back into the dating pool with confidence – and even experience success! I have found a wonderful man that loves me inside AND out!
I can’t say thank you enough and will do anything I can to spread my positive experience. Thank you all, thank you all, THANK YOU ALL!!!!
I had a bilateral mastectomy and immediate DIEP Flap reconstruction at age 44. I was originally not planning on having any reconstruction at all because I thought implants were scary and I didn’t know there were any other options. My breast surgeon was great, and didn’t pressure me about reconstruction one way or the other. She did say, “You know, there is a procedure where you can wake up with perky new boobs and a flat tummy.” THAT got my attention!
The breast surgeon gave me names of three doctors to talk to. One was someone she had gone to school with and he had done many, many TRAM Flaps. The other two doctors were “really good but have only done about 10 DIEP Flaps together.” Of course, I went to the guy with all the experience. I went to the consultation pretty much planning to have him do my reconstruction. He was grumpy. He handed me a book about TRAM Flaps and every time I asked a question his answer was that it was in the book. The last thing I asked was what he would suggest if I were his wife and she was trying to decide between TRAM and DIEP. His answer, “I would tell her to do whatever she wanted to,” really annoyed me! I left thinking I had better go meet the other doctors. I am so thankful I did!
Dr. Chris met with me for almost two hours. He went over the all pros and cons, the before and after pictures, and answered all my questions directly. He made me feel like he had all the time in the world to help me with my decision. I left that appointment knowing I had found a doctor the right doctor. I actually didn’t look at the PMCS website until after I had met with Dr. Chris. I was really happy to see all the amazing credentials to back up my gut feeling that he was an excellent choice!
The next part of my story is what most people tell first if they are repeating it. I had the mastectomy before I got cancer. This is usually what people find intriguing, but I chose to bury it in the fourth paragraph because I don’t want that to be the focus of my story. I was 19 when my maternal grandmother lost her fight with breast cancer. I was 40 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. I had lived half of my life in fear of cancer. I dreaded the mammograms and MRI’s I had to have every 6 months because of my family history.
I wanted to reduce the chances of getting cancer as much as I could, so I had my breasts and ovaries removed. For me, it was a good solution to getting rid of what I call the Cancer Cloud. The next question everyone has is whether I have the BRCA mutations. I don’t know. My mother was tested, and she is BRCA Negative (yet had it in both breasts!) I didn’t see any reason to get tested because whether I was positive or negative, I was still going to have everything removed. I have children, so I will get tested some day for their information.
I met Dr. Jeremy a couple of times before surgery, and although Dr. Chris was my “main” doctor, I felt comfortable with both of them. I trusted Dr. Chris, and knew he wouldn’t have a partner who was anything less than wonderful! My surgery was 12 hours long and went well. I was in my own room by about 9:00 p.m. Dr. Chris told the nurses he was going to get some dinner and then come back and check on me, which he did an hour later. Then he went home, but he called the hospital at 1:00 a.m. to check on me again. My nurse commented the next morning that he was the most conscientious surgeon she had ever worked with! I was in the hospital 3 nights. More than having specific pain, I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I went home to my family (husband and 4 teenagers!) on a gorgeous September morning feeling like things couldn’t have gone any better.
When it was time for the Phase II surgery, we scheduled my gynecologist to do the ovary removal at the same time. There were some complications with the ovary surgery and it took almost three times longer than expected. Dr. Chris had to make some decisions regarding my revisions while I was still under anesthesia. He knew I was expecting to wake up looking a certain way, but it went against his better judgment to do it since I had three hours of abdominal surgery already. He talked to my mother who was in the waiting room. He called Dr. Jeremy and discussed it with him. He told me the next day that he made the final decision by asking himself what he would want done if I were his wife. I was treated like family! IT CAN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!
Dr. Chris didn’t do the planned revisions that day, but rescheduled for a couple of weeks later. Here’s the really amazing part: the only day he could schedule the surgery was during his Christmas vacation. He had family visiting from out of state, yet he did another 6 hours of surgery because he wanted me to be happy and he’s a good man. (Dr. Jeremy also helped with the surgery that day – he’s a good man, too!)
I have no hesitation in saying that the Williams doctors are gifted. They have been gifted with intelligence and compassion. We are so blessed to have these men in Colorado. I live near the PCMS office, and I can honestly say I get teary every time I drive past it. I am just so grateful.