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!!!!