“My mother died of ovarian cancer at age 50,” explains Vicki. “In addition, my older sister had breast cancer five years prior to when I discovered mine; and my 27-year-old daughter had it only a year before,” explains Vicki. “I was due to have my yearly checkup, so I went in right away.”
Her physician performed a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy all in the same day. “The diagnosis was breast cancer and because of my family history, a double mastectomy was scheduled,” says Vicki. My other two daughters tested positively for the abnormal BRCA1 gene and now require annual breast and ovarian scans.
Several friends and relatives recommended that Vicki visit with Dr. Babovic to discuss plastic surgery options prior to her breast removal. “Dr. B. explained the breast reconstruction process in a way I understood and felt comfortable,” says Vicki. The Plastic Surgery staff takes measurements and pictures so they can best imitate a woman’s natural breasts during the reconstruction process.
Breast expanders were placed by Dr. Babovic following Vicki’s mastectomy, as part of the same surgery. “I wanted to start the reconstruction process right away, even though I was going through chemotherapy and radiation,” remembers Vicki. “Every two weeks, fluid was added to expand the tissue and I did my exercise and stretches,” she says. “It wasn’t a piece of cake, but it gave me something to look forward to during this challenging time.”
The Plastic Surgery team showed Vicki pictures of what her breasts would look like after the reconstruction process. “It looked quite natural and I felt comfortable with the predicted outcome … and my husband agreed,” says Vicki.
The entire process took about a year from start to finish – from expander placement to tattooing, the final touch. “They color the areola and form nipples so the result is really quite natural-looking,” says Vicki.
“The nurses and all the staff were so compassionate and friendly,” says Vicki, who entrusted her sexuality to a team that exceeded all her expectations. “You know, after spending a year involved in this delicate and intimate process, I miss seeing everyone there – we became quite close.”
Vicki knows that if she had to face the rest of her life with no breasts, each look in the mirror would be a bitter reminder of what cancer robbed. “These are not my God-given breasts, but they are the next best thing,” says Vicki. “I would recommend this procedure to anyone who loses their breasts.”
“There was very little downtime and I missed very little work,” says Vicki, who has Fridays off from her job as a dental office receptionist. “The team always planned my procedures on Fridays for me, so I didn’t miss work and had the weekend to recover.”
Vicki’s strong faith and the prayers of friends and family spurred her along on this incredible journey of healing and self-discovery. “The scars are fading, but the friendships, courage and spirituality I gained along the way remain with me,” she says. “I truly thank the Plastic Surgery team at Olmsted for giving me back what cancer took from me – and doing it in such an endearing manner.”