This is going to be long
girls so whatever your vices are, go get them, get comfy and start reading.
There is a reason why this is going to be a long story; and you will understand
it at the end.
Back in January 2004 I got my
first breast augmentation. I received 300cc smooth round moderate implants.
They looked great!! At the same time of that operation I got a full tummy tuck
with liposuction and massive muscle repair. Sometime right after I got my
surgery I found Bailey and have been with her ever since. I got my second breast
surgery due to a leak in my saline in the right breast. No biggie, just a
replacement and I went on my way. That was April 2005. By November 2005 I
decided, although my breasts looked fantastic, they were too hard to sleep on
and were uncomfortable most of the time so I saved my money and changed over to
silicone. I really should have left them alone.
The silicone implants I got
were wider and had less projection, nonetheless, 400cc’s later the implants were
too big for me. I didn’t however, have any more money to do any more surgery,
as I had my lips done twice, had more liposuction, along with BOTOX three times.
I also had Restylane in laugh lines twice, and a rhinoplasty. I needed the
rhinoplasty as I had a deviated septum. I had a good settlement in which I had
extra money, and it finally had run out……along with my fun!
In February 2006, I had
a huge argument with my mother. I could not for the life of me understand it,
as I never had a fight with my mother before. I got annoyed with her a couple
of times, but this fight was terrible. The argument was difficult for me to
understand, as my Mom just stopped talking to me altogether. She wouldn’t
return my calls, and ended up banning me from her house. She had warned me to
stay away or she would call the police. All of this was a mystery to me, and it
was hard to comprehend exactly the reason why things happened the way they did.
I thought she might be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, because none of this
made any sense.
I ended up leaving her alone
for awhile…with Mother’s Day passing without any communication. The entire
situation was so sad, and around May 11, 2006, I decided to forget my problems
and go to Florida for a vacation. I needed some time to myself to get some
mental rest from all the stress and confusion.
I have no siblings and her
husband; my father had passed away on June 21, 2001. My father and I did not
have a good relationship at all, and in the end I couldn’t even speak to him. I
went to my best friend’s house in Florida and stayed with her for 7 days. I
arrived home from Florida on May 18, 2006 and received a call from my Mom’s best
friend. I knew something was dreadfully wrong, so even though it was midnight I
ended up calling her back. She told me some very sad news that my Mom was very
sick and had cancer, of which she knew of since January 2006. So now it all
began to make sense. Even though the doctor said she had 18 month s to live,
she passed away 6 weeks later. The 19th of May, my Mom and I were able to
forgive each other as we cried together. It finally made perfect sense on why
she was pushing me away, as she was trying to protect me from the sorrow.
I was with her every day for
6 weeks except the day she finally passed away. I was going on what the doctor
had told me that she had 18 months to live, so I had gone to work the day she
died. We were supposed to see each other at 8:00 that night. She finally gave
up her fight with her battle with cancer at 7:35 PM that night. Devastated with
her passing on, I lay with her and told her everything I could think of until
the medical personal took her away. My Mom had breast cancer, and she never
told me. She apparently had this disease for years, and never told anyone but
her neighbor. No one told me of my Mom’s fate with this terrible disease.
At the time of her death I
was working at a local salon quite close to the hospital. I took my 3 days off
and went back to work with a lot on my plate. Her house, her renter, my family
issues, my husband’s job, my sanity... I felt as thought I was ready for the
funny farm, but work kept me sane.
One day a woman came into the
salon. Her name was Arlene Pagan. She happened to work in the hosp in the
cancer unit where they do genetic testing. I had overheard her telling one of
our stylists, who was my friend that she worked there. I immediately started
asking questions and she was very helpful in telling me how to do this type of
genetic testing. I made an appointment with the hospital to get this test done
right away, and had to wait for 6 weeks in order to get the results, as the test
was sent to California.
I am not a patient person, I
stress, I think and I worry. Two weeks later I was called into the hospital. I
thought that this was odd - because it was too soon to get the results, but I
couldn’t find out any information. Once I was there, a doctor from the
University of Pennsylvania was there waiting for me. I am a very perceptive
person, and knew something had to be wrong. The physician told me in no
uncertain terms that I did indeed have the BRCA Gene, and not just one – but two
showed up in the BRCA2 testing. It had only been 3 months since my mom passed
away, and I still had a mountain of stress on my plate. I physically could
hear no more after he said 2 mutated genes in the BRCA2. This was all I needed
just one more thing to add to my plight of life.
I was hysterical so I
compromised to the doctor said I would do a hysterectomy though deep down I
didn’t understand why. I now know not having estrogen stops feeding cancer,
though I was assured I did not have actual cancer at this time. I had started
getting itchy nipples like you would not believe so I was not sure I totally
believed everything he said. The physician told me that most women opt to
remove their breasts.
All of this was too much, as
I was in denial. I could not comprehend everything that was being thrown at me
and I just plain was not ready. Most of all, I did not understand how it all
worked and I was just too exhausted to even try to assimilate everything that
was being told to me. There was not one more thing I could take in, as I was on
maximum overload. After this appointment, I went to my gynecologist and
scheduled a hysterectomy to be done immediately. My uterus and ovaries were
free of any cancer, but the hospital where I was staying was the most horrible
hospital I had ever been to in my life.
My doctor would not listen to me when I
said absolutely no morphine, and the anesthesiologist did not listen to me as
well. Morphine makes me very sick and the constipation was so bad I almost had
to have a bowel extraction which is very dangerous. The call bells did not
work, no one could reach me by phone, and I was vomiting into my hands. Yet,
all the nurses at this hospital could do was to keep pushing my morphine button
– even though I was begging her not to. The nurse was fired as well as a few
others that were on my case. No one denied what had happened, so heads
definitely did roll. This was the worst hospital experience I have ever had in
my life, and I can say without a doubt, I will never go there again. My own
gynecologist was replaced, as he was another man who cared not to pay attention
to my situation - even though the history in my patient chart clearly stated
Two years go by and now I
have different insurance and cannot find a decent primary care physician. Once
again, I was dragging my feet until one day a woman in our salon came in and
told me about her foundation. She founded Oceans of love, which is a cancer
group here in Toms River, New Jersey. We have a lot of people and children in
Toms River that have been diagnosed with cancer. She was wonderful, as she
gave me a name of a physician she thought I would love. Her name was Dr. Lisa
Kassenoff. My other primary care physician that I was leaving wouldn’t release
my patient files so we had to start from scratch. Luckily I had the
hysterectomy surgical report, bone density test results, copy of my thyroid
problem, and the BRCA results.
This wonderful woman sat me
down and we talked for over an hour. She basically explained I had two
roads……one with cancer and one with none. The one with cancer seemed far
scarier than the road without it. I thought about everything with great
concern, and ended up going to a couple new physicians, however, I didn’t find
one that I was happy with.
I decided to come back to
Cosmetic Surgery Forums one day, and saw the thread written by Cheryl,
It was fate, Cheryl ended up saving my life……and we have become great friends.
At first, I had no intentions whatsoever of removing my breasts because I could
not find a decent doctor who was informative enough to give me the whole picture
of what I was facing, and my odds. Cheryl told me everything I needed to know
in a way I could understand. Cheryl really knew what she was talking about, and
she has talked to me for countless hours. I am a very perceptive person, and I
knew the minute that Cheryl and I connected, that I could totally trust her with
Cheryl sent me her photos of her reconstruction, and I ended up
going to doctor to doctor with these in hand, and even my own plastic surgeon
disappointed me. In the past, I trusted my plastic surgeon like God, so to hear
from him that this might be unobtainable, my red flag went up and I called
Cheryl and told her she had to help me. We spoke for hours chatting endlessly,
and I am sure she was very tired the following days at work because of our long
Cheryl never failed me……she
ended up giving me the names of her doctors in Connecticut, and I gave them to
my new primary care physician and “make it happen”. Cheryl has been my mentor
through all of this, and has guided me 100% with making the right decision. I
had to go through a lot of new tests, new blood-work, mammograms, thyroid, and
One physician made me make
sure my testing results were still good with the BRCA2, and I had to prove it
was still standing. Every test, pathology, bone density test started to make my
patient file grow over 2 inches thick. I took all of my results to Dr. Restifo
in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Restifo is renowned as he has many awards for
being one of the best doctors in America since the 1990’s. Dr. Restifo was
impressed on how organized everything was, and I replied to him he should see my
room…….”you would run!”
He told me he could do my
bilateral reconstruction with implants; and I would be very happy with the
result. The best news was he said he could get them pretty close to what I
have had and I said well I have Cheryl’s pictures in my file…..and those are the
breasts I want! He laughed, but he also was very empathetic and has terrific
bedside manner. The most important thing was understood the surmounting stress
I was under and he made me so comfortable. Dr. Restifo showed me the implants
and he stayed with me answering every question I had. There was not a doubt in
my mind about him. This was my plastic surgeon for sure!
Dr. Nina Horowitz also is an
amazing breast surgeon who I have come to love. Dr. Restifo and Dr. Horowitz
work together hand in hand together when it comes to this type of surgery. The
first visit with her was amazing; she did not pull any punches and she was with
me for over 2 hours. She is a very caring physician who is extremely factual.
Dr. Horowitz also has a wonderful bedside manner; she is very nice and
accommodating and never makes a patient feel rushed. She took the time to show
me all the pamphlets on breast reconstruction and most importantly, she did not
tell me she couldn’t do the surgery like the other physicians were. She also
was the one! Absolutely no red flags! Her compassion, consideration,
cooperation, empathy and professionalism is above reproach! I did find out
though, she needed me to drive over to another MRI screening place to have a MRI
done. Unfortunately, because I needed pre authorization from my insurance
company, I was unable to get the MRI done that day. However, I was able to get
this test out of the way the following day.
So, I ended up picking out my
surgery date, March 4, 2009 was my big day. I had to be at Yale New Haven
Hospital on the May 3, because my white blood cell count was 13. Apparently, I
had some sort of infection that was asymptomatic. I was really worried because
I knew my surgery might get postponed if I did have an infection, as they cannot
place the implants with a high count like this. I asked her if she could just
give me a lot of antibiotics to try and fight this, so the surgery would not get
postponed, and she just calmly told me to come by tomorrow as planned and she
wanted to redraw the blood. Thank goodness my white blood count was only 7.9,
so surgery day was on.
I had to be at the hospital
by 7:30 am on March 4th and surgery would be at 8:30 am. I started getting
nervous! The anesthesiologist was having a hard time find a good vein to start
the IV. After several attempts, Dr. Horowitz said to stop and told them that
this would be done in the OR. Once inside the OR, they put the gas mask over
my face, making me fall asleep so they could get the IV started. I was pretty
anxious that it took 45 minutes for the dr. to find a place for the IV to
work. I woke up and it was all done, but I don’t remember much except that I
did not want to breathe right. My husband told the nurse so she ended up
watching me for a long time. They finally gave me Narcan, which is very strong
and it brought me right where I was supposed to be. In the beginning, I was
only breathing 6 breaths a minute, where 20 is normal. I had the entire team
of residents from the hospital in my room checking on my breathing condition.
There were at least 8 residents at a time, they all were so wonderful!
Both of the physician teams
came to see me with the breathing episode, however I knew I was in good hands
and being scared never crossed my mind. Every nurse, doctor, resident, were
wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for better care. The difference between Yale
New Haven Hospital and the hospital I was in for my hysterectomy was like night
and day. The hospital that I had such a terrible experience at seemed more like
a clinic than a hospital. I hope I am never in the position again to end up at
that other hospital, not unless there is an emergency. From now on when my
family needs a hospital, it will be Yale New Haven.
I was a bit nauseated for
some time and Compazine helped tremendously. I had heparin shots in the
stomach; they looked like a dart but were painless. The heparin shots keep the
body from forming blood clots, which can be very dangerous.
As for pain meds, I never
ever once asked for pain meds. This surgery simply did not hurt and I have a
low pain threshold when it comes to pain. I didn’t take anything, as I truly
didn’t need to.
I was in the hospital for 2
nights. I would have stayed for life if the hospital would have let me. I had
the best time there. They have a spa room which I was in from 1am till 230 am.
Patients are offered CD’s to listen to, in which I found a great classical one!
I read magazines, had lavender body spray to play with, rosemary cream to cream
up with, and the hospital room was so comforting! There was a nice lazy boy
chair in the room, but I sat on the floor and had a blast.
Friday March 6th,
2009, I was released from the hospital, but I wanted to stay another day but because I
had 3 hours travel time ahead of me, I decided to leave. I felt great, and Dave
(my husband) wheeled me in with the wheelchair we got from my daughters best
friend’s grandmother. The wheelchair is totally portable and lightweight.
How I traveled to Connecticut
and back was I ended up taking a bus to the port authority. It was only $24.00
round trip. We then took a cab to grand central train station and got on the
metro to union train station which is the last stop. The train station was a
nice train station. The hospital was two blocks from the train station, as were
both Dr. Restifo and Dr. Horowitz. What more could I ask for? The rides home
were totally fine, no pain and no bouncing around. It was great. They also
have popcorn at the train station, which was the best I ever had. The buses run
every hour as do the trains. It was so easy. We left at 9am, we left that
early in case of any road snags. I did not want to drive, as it is an hour or
more. The bus was 1.5 hrs and so was the train. We had time for lunch and to
browse a bit coming and going. Nothing was rushed which made things nice.
Now as for the beginning
where I said I would explain things. My mother ignored the fact that she was
sick to not hurt me but to not want to see me cry. She pushed me away because
she could not take it. She thought God was mad at her. She was protecting me
from the sadness I would endure without her. I miss her so very much even to
this day I cry.
I waited 2.5 years to address
this situation with me with the
BRCA testing. I was in denial and not in
denial. I was a very lucky woman when I tell you they did find cysts... they
did not show up on the MRI. Thank goodness they were benign.
Back to my mother, her not
telling me what was going on with her shortened my time with her. I could have
had 6 months from January till June 30, 2006. The unfortunate thing was I only
had 6 weeks. They were spent in a hospital. I remember we watched TV and that
game “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. During this time we had the most fun we
ever had in my life until she could no longer enunciate or even write on paper.
On her last day she saw all her friends, somehow amazingly she could talk
perfectly. God was kind. Sadly, after she saw all her friends that day and me
in the morning, she turned to the nurse and said she was ready to die. It was
in minutes. Please do not be like me having to lay with my mother while she is
deceased. Talking to her, crying to her, holding her knowing she was gone.
Talk to your family. Tell them what is going on in your life because I am
telling you the mental anguish hurts so bad; and the pain and shock is
insurmountable. Cancer will not go away - some people are lucky, some not so.
This has been a long
journey…..one that I ended up with new breasts with a horizontal scar which the
nipple reconstruction will eventually cover most of it. For that I am
lucky…it is just a scar. I get to be one of the lucky ones that live. I beat
cancer before it had a chance to beat me. And more importantly……cancer won’t
wait for you, so why do you have to wait for it?
My surgical reconstruction
was fabulous. I have 550cc's of the most beautiful breasts. Even if I had
expanders it wouldn’t have mattered, as all I ever wanted was to have a chance
to live my life. Unfortunately some people do not get to have that choice when
surprises come their way. All I am saying is do not ever hide from this from
anyone to protect them. Your family and friends will want to be with you every
step of the way. They want to be by you for as long as they can. Unfortunately
I didn’t get to hold my mother’s hand as she went to heaven. It was not fair to
be kept in the dark.
This is the first time I have
ever written my story out, and I am shaking – but in a good way. I am alive and
I would do it again over and over again. Do not ever be afraid of the
unknown….live your life and love your life. If you ever need me as a friend or
for information about this procedure you can always call me. I love you all for
the utmost support as I would have never gone through all of this without all of
you. You all have been my lifeline….especially Cheryl. I am sorry this story
is so long winded, but I think it is important and worth it to tell my
experience, as in as much as finding out you have cancer……know you can beat
it. When you are in the place of finding out if you have the BRCA gene, or if
you are positive for breast cancer……everyone needs inspiration and hope. And I
hope my story will help others during their time of need.
Bilateral Mastectomy with 550ccs. Implants
Scars from Mastectomy and Reconstruction
Nipple Reconstruction is suppose to be started in September 2009