Breast Reconstruction and You: Everybody’s Doing It, So Why Don’t We?

Kitt Allan continues our Breast Reconstruction and You Blog Series in anticipation of our Twitter Chat on October 21, Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day. We posted part one earlier this week. Learn more about Ms. Allan and her apparel, for which  proceeds of sales benefit LBBC.

IMG_8360-1 Reconstruction is a topic near and dear to my heart even though I haven’t had it myself. I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer when I was four months pregnant. The doctors on my team – a surgeon, an oncologist, and a high-risk OB, all advised quick action since my tumor was very aggressive and we needed to get as far as possible in my treatment before I gave birth. About a week after diagnosis I had a unilateral mastectomy and then started chemotherapy. I had asked my surgeon if I should have a double mastectomy but she didn’t see it as a good option because my right breast was healthy and she didn’t want to keep me in surgery any longer than necessary.

At the time reconstruction wasn’t an option. The surgeons agreed that with all the body changes of pregnancy it might be as long as two years before my body would settle down enough for a good reconstruction. At the time, hearing that didn’t bother me that much, as you might imagine my main goal was to have a healthy baby and be healthy enough to be a good mom.

I was fit for a prosthetic, or form as I usually call it, and began wearing it. And over the days and months, having a form on one side and a breast on the other became my new body, and surprisingly I became comfortable with it. Sometimes now I even forget that I don’t have two real breasts.

Reconstruction can be made to seem like an inevitable part of the treatment process. Every time I visit my breast surgeon she tells me about all of the new surgical techniques and I have to admit that options have come a long way and more and more women are happy with the results. I listen, always wondering if she’ll say something that changes my mind, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The only time I ever considered reconstruction was while shopping for lingerie and swimwear and I felt limited by the choices available to me. I wasn’t ready to resign myself to frumpy clothes, so through my business I give survivors more choices so that we can all feel comfortable in our own skin and more like ourselves again. I think there are a million great reasons for women to have reconstruction but finding garments that make you feel like yourself shouldn’t be one of them.

“When it comes to reconstruction, and just about anything else in life, I think each woman should decide for herself what she wants to do with her own body.”

When it comes to reconstruction, and just about anything else in life, I think each woman should decide for herself what she wants to do with her own body. From my own experience, I also know that not all women can have reconstruction even if they want it. I design garments that take into account all different choices and realities. While attending LBBC’s Wellness Weekend a couple of weeks ago I was struck by the number of women, many of them young, weighing their options for reconstruction – thinking seriously whether to have it, when to have, or how to have it. I was glad to see them getting information not only from doctors but also from other women who have been there. All women should have as much information as possible to make the best choice for themselves.

 I wish that women who can’t have reconstruction, or don’t choose to, had the chance to meet more women like themselves so that they didn’t feel so alone. The truth is we aren’t all doing it and the recent JAMA study showed nearly 60% of women don’t choose to or can’t have reconstruction. I had no idea there were so many women like me.

Over these last few years I continue to educate myself and I am still happy with my decision to stay as I am. First, I couldn’t have reconstruction and once I could I found that I didn’t want it. This is my body now and I’m comfortable with that.

Tweet about breast reconstruction with Kitt and our panelists on October 21.

I Wasn’t Broken or Fragile…I Just Had Cancer

20141011_123702Today, LBBC blogger and friend Natalie is here to share what it was like for her to hear the words “You have breast cancer” and how her and her family reacted.

My name is Natalie Gamble, I am 43 years old and in May of 2014 one phone call changed my life forever. ” Your biopsy came back positive, Natalie I’m so sorry but you have cancer.” Cancer? My first reaction of course was tears. I cried in my husband’s arms afraid of the unknown because while an enlarged lymph node was positive for cancer my mammogram and ultrasound had shown nothing but benign cysts. My first thoughts after my crying jag were: “The Devil is a Lie!” Cue my second reaction, I got mad, I mean fighting mad and decided right then and there no matter what I was faced with I was going to fight and I was going to win. The next few days were a blur of appointments, procedures and tests I never even knew existed. After it was all said and done I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, Stage II. Continue reading

My Fear of Breast Cancer Recurrence (A Poem)

EliseBourneBusbyThe fear of recurrence, or fear of cancer coming back, is one of the most common worries among people affected by breast cancer. Elise Bourne-Busby, EdD, wrote this poem about her own fear of recurrence in anticipation of our free January webinar on this topic.

The fear that cancer may invade my body again
Keeps recurring daily in my brain,
I must change my habits, if I want to stay healthy
Good health is not cheap, I must re-assign my money,
Good nutrition first, eat only the best
Fresh fruits and vegetables, get plenty of rest,
No candy and soda, drink water every day
I am what I eat, and for this I must pay,
My immune system is the core of my being
My body is designed to do the Self–Healing,
I must treat my body kindly, I must help the process
Exercise a little more, eat a little less,
My doctors will treat me, but I must keep the appointment
Get frequent health checks, even though inconvenient,
I must not be scared to ask my doctors any question
They are the experts, I pay for this information,
I must not be afraid to say I don’t understand
I must always, always get a second opinion,
I need my health, so I must remember
To ask my doctors for my health numbers,
Show me my glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure
And when I go home I’ll take my waist measure,
My good health is not only important, it’s mandatory
I must fire my doctors if necessary,
But I am not perfect, I do not always rest
Sometimes I eat junk food, and make my life a mess,
So I have to stay strong, and talk to myself daily
Nurture the core of my being, to balance spirit, mind and body,
I must invest in good health, fear is not an option
I must take care of me, that’s the only solution.

Elise Bourne-Busby, EdD, is a 15-year breast cancer survivor, and is a Reach to Recovery volunteer for the American Cancer Society. She is one of the founding members and chairperson of the group More Than Friends, which gives Sharing and Caring baskets to cancer patients undergoing treatment, provides transportation, makes home and hospital visits and assists the uninsured and under-insured with information to solve medication needs and financial issues.

The fear of recurrence doesn’t have to run your life. Join us on Thursday, January 29, at noon ET, for our fear of reccurence webinar, to learn about practical tools to help you manage your fears.

Celebrating My Five Year Milestone

Surgery Day: Tiffany just before her double mastectomy.

Surgery Day: Tiffany just before her double mastectomy.

LBBC blogger and friend Tiffany Mannino is back, but this time, instead of sharing one of her entries from her self-titled letters ‘Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress’ penned to her unborn daughter Lola during her breast cancer journey, she’s here to share what being 5 years out from her cancer diagnosis means to her and what she’s learned in the process…

Three weeks ago, I celebrated my five year survivor anniversary. Whether or not the medical world would allow me to call myself ‘cured’, December 16th was an absolutely incredible day and a milestone I will never forget. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I as reflect on the last five years of my life, I believe that it also takes a village to raise a cancer survivor.  I will never forget when it first hit me that I had my very own village. May 2010…my first Race for the Cure as a survivor. Our Breastfix at Tiffany’s team of more than twenty came together on a very cold, May morning. I was freezing and SO weak from chemo, but I crossed that finish line with tears in my eyes and incredible joy in my heart.  I can’t ever remember a time feeling more loved and supported.

Today: Celebrating where life has taken her.

Today: Celebrating where life has taken her.

I can’t believe that moment was almost five years ago. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago.  Of course, me being me, I have taken a lot of time to reflect on what I’ve learned and how I have grown from this experience.  In some ways, my post cancer journey has been more difficult than being in ‘battle mode’.  Having cancer changed the course of my life and although I was unbelievably thankful that God healed me, I also had to ask, “Ok. I’m alive. Now what?” I was in my late thirties, divorced, unable to bear children, and completely lost.  Several years later, I’m still trying to figure it all out, but the greatest thing I have learned is that I am so blessed because although I may not know where my life is headed, I have a village. I have family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, parents, doctors, yogis, trainers, fellow survivor sisters, bloggers, and even former boyfriends who love and support me no matter what.

Continue reading

‘Tis the Season for Giving

10478588_10204051655830539_1428283575535628673_nIn her role as Vice President of Advancement at Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Sandy Martin works directly with the community of individual donors and corporate partners whose financial support allows us to further our mission of connecting people to trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.

One of the things that I often admire most about the work we do at LBBC is the level of commitment to our mission that is shared by our constituency.  Recently, I was able to reflect again about how deep that commitment runs.

Over the last few weeks, as we have been preparing stories for our upcoming quarterly newsletter, Insight, this admiration struck me again.  That’s because an article in our Spring 2015 edition will feature personal reflections by some of our supporters about what LBBC means to them as well as why they feel it is important to give back to our organization.  One of these stories comes from Terry Frangiosa of Harleysville, Pennsylvania.  Terry, while not diagnosed with breast cancer herself, has been a long-time LBBC supporter who says “I attended my first LBBC conference with my sister, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33.  We were both shocked and frightened by the diagnosis, especially because she was so young.   We left feeling empowered by the information we learned at that conference. As our knowledge grew our fear decreased and the conference became a part of my sister’s healing process.  Donating to LBBC’s Guardian Angel program, a service that offsets conference registration fees for those experiencing economic hardship, is my way to help others access the information and support they need and to make a difference in their lives. I know attending that conference years ago did exactly that for my sister and family.” Continue reading

Who Was This Woman Looking At Me? Was She Even A Woman?

Tough Girl 2!Tiffany Mannino is back to share yet another of her diary entries penned to her unborn daughter Lola during her breast cancer journey. She has entitled the letters Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress’ as she reflects on her five year journey with letting go of the past, facing fears, learning to love, finding happiness in the moment, and realizing that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in life.

Oh baby…I am so tired the computer screen is looking fuzzy, however, a few moments ago, I had this compulsion to write to you rather than crawl into bed. After nine months of being on sabbatical, I have finally gone back to work to start a new school year. I wish I could tell you the transition was easy, but the last few weeks have been grueling. I have been an emotional wreck having meltdowns on a daily basis. The best way that I can describe my state is that I feel like a beached horseshoe crab that has been flipped on its back and can’t seem to turn over. It squirms with the scorching sun beating down on its parched shell. The strangest part of this all is that as difficult as this change is for me, deep in my heart I know that I am going to come out of this a better soul. Like a molting horseshoe crab, I feel like I am shedding my old self and beginning a new. Continue reading

LBBC and Angela & Roi

A&RLogo2 Angela-Roi-handbag-2_mediumAs most of you know, we at LBBC have an initiative called “Beyond October”. We do this because over 300,000 individuals will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year and roughly 1 in 12 of these individuals are diagnosed during the month of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Given this, the majority of individuals are diagnosed during the rest of the year, hence our “Beyond October” campaign. We have various partners who embrace this idea but today, classic vegan handbags for a cause makers Angela & Roi, are sharing why they’ve decided to partner with LBBC and why they believe in Beyond October…

Throughout our daily life, we often ask the question – is it possible to do what we love, and better the world while doing it?  At Angela & Roi, we believe this is not only possible but also the way that companies should be conducted.  We are founded on the belief that businesses should accept social responsibility for the products they put out, and utilize their resources to positively impact the greater community around them. We believe in using our passions for good. Continue reading