Beyond the Pink
Breast reconstruction, transformation, and restoration.
“It’s news that definitely takes your breath away,” says Patti Wade, regarding her 2009 breast cancer diagnosis. In a moment, the stability of your world alters and everything that seemed urgent just a few moments before – your to-do list, that spat with your spouse, what to serve for dinner – suddenly fades into the background as a new priority takes over: “Can I beat this?”
With early detection on the rise and improved treatment and reconstruction options available, preparing for a vibrant life after breast cancer is an important part of recovery. Since the inception of the Orlando medical practice, Newman Plastic Surgery has offered breast reconstruction procedures to patients with breast cancer.
“The response to a breast cancer diagnosis is different for every woman,” says board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Charles Newman, Jr. “Some women are crying at the first consultation and others are stoically matter-of-fact. Our priority is to carefully present all of the options, help our patients weigh every pro and con, and support them in whatever decisions they feel are right for their lives and their bodies at that time.”
“Our job is to not only get our patients safely through the immediate medical crisis but also to help put them back on the road to thriving, ” Dzi Newman, PA-C. “Living a long, cancer-free life is the most important goal, but wanting to hold on to your femininity is just as essential to your well-being. For many, breast reconstruction allows for the restoration of confidence and is the first step in navigating past the immediate shock of the diagnosis. It is a proactive and deliberate movement to acknowledge there will be life beyond this season.”
The decision to move forward with breast reconstruction is an extremely personal choice with both clinical and emotional considerations. For Ilka Zuijderland-Varnes, that meant having a unilateral mastectomy after her initial diagnosis, and opting out of reconstruction. “In 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a unilateral mastectomy. I chose not to undergo reconstruction at that time. I wanted a period without my breast, to experience life without it and grieve the loss. After two years fearing that the breast cancer could come back and noticing that the tissue in my remaining breast was changing a bit, I didn’t want to take a chance and opted for another mastectomy, but this time with reconstruction.” Her experience of living without a breast gave perspective to her process, allowed her to be an active role in her care, and confirmed her motivations for pursing reconstruction. “My reconstruction exceeded my expectations. The Newmans did a fantastic job and now, more than 5 years later, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of my new breasts.”
Dr. Charles Newman, Jr. and Breast Cancer Survivor Karol Vastrick
While delaying reconstruction gives you time to focus on treatments, immediate breast reconstruction, which begins at the time of the mastectomy, has become the standard of care for most patients. The obvious benefit to immediate post-mastectomy reconstruction is the psychological and aesthetic advantage of waking up after the mastectomy with a lesser deformity and a reconstruction well underway. Also, immediate reconstruction can spare the patient additional stages of surgery and interruptions in her life.
The course of the reconstruction is often dependent on the adjuvant treatment needs of the patient, such as chemotherapy or radiation. These treatments are considerations in the reconstructive process, as they can effect the appearance and ability of tissue to heal, as well as the timing duration of reconstruction, and the need for additional procedures. “Breast reconstruction is not the same as an augmentation, “ says Dr. Newman. “ When breasts are fully removed, we have to essentially build a breast from nothing. Our goal is to create optimal, natural-looking results while still helping patients understand what is realistically possible. We communicate the need to move forward safely and realistically, and while taking into consideration the medical treatments necessary to keep patients healthy.”
When navigating through breast cancer treatments and reconstruction, many patients find building a support network an important part of their recovery. For some women, their network consists of their spouse, children, friends, and co-workers. Some turn to breast cancer support groups. “No one does this alone, “ says Dzi Newman, PA-C. “These women are incredibly strong, but it is the support from those who love them that keeps them going on the hardest days. I remind them it is ok to let go sometimes and lean on those around them. People offer to help because they want to. Let someone bring you a meal, pick up the kids, or just sit and talk.“
“As soon as I heard my diagnosis, I thought of my daughter. Her support was wonderful but I also wanted her to see what I went through and understand why monthly breast exams are so important,” recalls Brenda Smith. In addition to the support of her family, Smith stressed the importance of having the clinic’s staff as part of her support network. “They made me feel comfortable and helped me see past my immediate diagnosis to the future. Dr. Newman reminded me of how young I am still. I felt so personally cared for that I didn’t mind the reconstruction process. I just really looked forward to visiting the office because of that support. It made all the difference.”
“We create an environment where patients feel welcome and comfortable, regardless of their reason for coming,” explains Dr. Newman. “Patients feel at ease with us and their care because we understand the importance of communication and encourage patients to use us as a supportive resource. Our staff is carefully trained to ensure every facet of the patient’s experience is attended to. Although we have treated hundreds of patients with similar concerns, we also understand this is the first time this patient has had this experience. “
“The final step, “ says Dzi Newman, PA-C, “ is moving on.” Breast cancer becomes such an overwhelming part of a woman’s life that it can become a part of her identity. Letting go and moving forward is the last leg of the journey. “It was strange when it was all done,” says Zuijderland-Varnes. “Coming in for our reconstruction appointments became such a normal part of our lives that when Dr. Newman said all was well and he’d see us in a few months, my husband said ‘So what? You’re breaking up with us?’ … The relationships we built here were that strong.”
“We grow very attached to our patients,” says Dzi Newman. “But ultimately them coming around less means cancer is no longer a part of their every day. We love when everyday concerns like a few extra laugh lines are the biggest reason they visit us. We’re happy to help with those sorts of normal worries. Although, to us, these women are already unbelievably beautiful.”
Newman Plastic Surgery
444 N. Mills Ave.
Orlando, FL 32803