I am a daughter, sister, wife and mother. I am also a two time breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed the first time in January of 2002. I had two lumpectomies, eighteen weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of daily radiation. I felt I had the best care and protocol at that time for my breast cancer diagnosis. But, cancer has a mind of its own and in 2014 I had a recurrence and this time it was in both breasts. I knew I faced a double mastectomy.
The news was devastating as it is for most women and men who hear that body parts will be removed to rid you of cancer. Despite devastating news the day I was told I had to have a mastectomy, there was also hope. Almost in the same breath my breast surgeon also told me about my options for reconstruction. I was one of a minority of fortunate patients to be provided with education about implants as well as autologous reconstruction; using your own tissue to rebuild the breast mound. My breast surgeon proceeded to tell me that DIEP flap breast reconstruction was considered the “gold standard” because it uses your own tissue adding that it was also a highly intricate procedure requiring a specialist in plastic surgery called a microsurgeon.
It seemed like such an easy decision for me to make based on my preference to use my own tissue. Many women have successfully and happily chosen implants but I chose to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction. An easy decision turned into hours and days spent trying to find a highly successful and qualified microsurgeon to perform my procedure to restore what cancer had taken from me.
I found that plastic surgeon and in December of 2014, seven months after my double nipple sparring mastectomy my breasts were restored. It was nothing short of a miraculous process to me, my family, and the friends who supported me through the surgery and recovery. The procedure and emotional support I received from the plastic surgeon and his office inspired me to begin supporting other women through their own reconstruction process.
I started writing a blog about my own journey through the breast reconstruction process. I became actively engaged in the breast cancer and breast reconstruction Social Media community. I began to push the word out to women and men who were not given the same information I was about options for breast reconstruction. Many had no idea of the intricacies and details it took to have successful breast reconstruction whether they chose implants or autologous. I raised awareness about the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act that was reintroduced on the House floor in May of 2014. The bill was passed into law in December of 2015 to help educate more patients about their options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. But I knew there was work to be done.
I opened a Facebook group in June of 2015 and it’s almost as if the flood gates opened. Just by word of mouth more and more patients found the closed/private group I administered to support these patients going through mastectomy and wanting to rebuild their lives after breast cancer. My Social Media accounts began growing through outreach and communicating with professionals in the community who were passionate about sharing evidence-based information about breast reconstruction. I surrounded myself with these individuals to give credibility to the information I was sharing with patients.
What started with a blog became the inspiration for opening the non-profit DiepCfoundation.org. I realize that until a cure for breast cancer is found, there will always be a need to educate and inform others about their options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. This community includes breast cancer patients, both women and men, and BRCA gene carriers who are seeking that support. DiepCfoundation will provide those resources, evidenced based information and support needed to assist those on their own Journey to rebuild their lives after mastectomy.
Continuing the Journey ~
Founder & Director of the non-profit: DiepCfoundation.org