Karen’s Story

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeons Serving Denver, Lone Tree, Colorado & Nationwide

survivor Karen 0

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.

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