Words of Thanks from a Breast Cancer Survivor

Posted by admin on Sunday, April 4, 2010

The following is a message from one of my patients who underwent bilateral skin-sparing mastectomies and immediate reconstruction using the DIEP/SIEA flap.  

Words like hers are the exact reason why being a Plastic Surgeon and Reconstructive Microsurgeon is so absolutely rewarding...

Dear Karen,

    My breasts are so beautiful. My torso, too. I'm overflowing with affection, appreciation and feelings of indebtedness towards you. This is so personal. YOU led me here. Not you, the doctor. Not you because this is your job. But the loving, caring, giving you. 

   Your training and gift as a surgeon are your vehicles but it's your heart and your soul that speak to the patient.You gave me the chance to put aside fear, stale ideas, and martyrdom (from childhood! YIKES! I didn't even know it was still there until all of this,) to reach in and stretch my uninformed "normal" view. When Dr. Richards first mentioned "reconstruction" I thought I had misunderstood. I had cancer. What does reconstruction have to do with that? Of course, everyone is familiar with breast cancer and, afterwards, reconstruction,  but these are remote concepts to those who have never experienced it.  

     "Let's just get rid of the cancer," I said to myself. "I don't need new boobs. They haven't been cute since I was last breast feeding. I'm already settled in with older-ish woman boobs, anyway. My middle-aged persona has been developed with older-ish woman boobs playing a key role. WHAT are they all talking about?" Now, I have breasts and they are lovely!

    When I met you, I was scared. Maybe you were the first person ever to say, " Joanne, What do YOU want? This is for you. Only you. What do you want ?" Maybe I was very receptive at that time in my life to consider such a question. My body, my choice. In those days, I would have been satisfied to get rid of the cancer, but I did consider your question . You gave me an open door to think about it. I did think about it. A lot. Before long I was able to decide that I did want new boobs. You know the rest of the story.

    Now that you've completed your magic on me, I feel so new. So alive. So complete. I haven't been swimming for awhile. Now I can't wait for summer.  My sexuallity was dormant. Now it is reawakened! I was a bit reclusive. Now I'm not. Each moment of my life has been improved, deepened, and is more satisfying since having received your care.

    I will be thanking you for the rest of my life for the most awesome and generous gift I have received from you. 

    Karen, I am so eternally grateful to you for staying with me at a time of great despair.

    With love, gratitude, and appreciation,

    Thanks so much, ~joanne

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