One of the best things we can do as a support group is to tell your stories. You have so much to share with those walking and struggling along a similar path, and no story is stronger than one told by those who need to tell it.
Happy February friends, fellow survivors, and fellow fighters. This month is usually one that celebrates love with candy hearts, cards, and enough rom-com films to drive you crazy. Red, pink, and white everything cover every surface of every drug store, department store, and grocery store that you walk into. But we are no strangers to the color pink. It's not just a color of love and Hallmark Holidays. It's a color of strength, fortitude, determination, and power. It's the color of battle and the color of remembrance. Valentine's Day is just one day, but love is something that should be celebrated in all forms every day. Love is something that keeps us fighting and gives us a reason one way or the other to get up and out of bed and to keep moving. Leave the candy and the cards behind, and let love carry you through all day every day. Don't let one day get you down, let it buoy you in remembering that love and determination are always with you.
In celebration of that idea, we are so excited to open up a new chapter in our blogs. If you have been following us on Instagram and Facebook (which, if you haven't yet, you should!) then you are probably familiar with our posts dedicated to #SurvivorSunday, and asking you to share your survivor stories with us. These are your stories to tell, and no one can tell them better than you. Now that we have had some incredible individuals share their stories with us, we will be dedicating some of our blogs to these people and the stories they have to tell.
We are so very excited to share our very first survivor story with you, and this extraordinary woman might look very familiar. We are honored to share with you the story of Savanna James, who was recently crowned Miss Summerville and will be going on to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant later this summer. Her platform is "Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention." How incredible is that? Her story is unique. It is a story about being a high-risk survivor. We are so proud to share her story because she represents more than half of our patient population. We excited to have her as an advocate for awareness and early detection. We are also very thrilled to announce that she will be apart of our team this summer, and will be a part of several upcoming events. Please keep your eyes and calendars open for that.
Without further ado, we turn this blog over to Savanna James, so she can tell you her story.
"Being 24, I genuinely believed that my "adult" life was just getting started. I had moved to Charleston and started working as Vice President of East West Gem Co. I grew up acting and doing pageants, and even though I knew breast cancer was heavy in my family, I didn't think anything could affect me this early. Unfortunately, this reality was shattered at my yearly OBGYN appointment. I was referred to the Breast Place immediately. After meeting with Dr. Beatty, I was advised that it would be in my best interest to have a double mastectomy. The decision to move forward was not easy, especially at my age, but it is one I am very thankful that I was able to make. I have watched several family members suffer and ultimately pass away from breast cancer. I chose to compete for Miss Summerville, sharing my story, because there are so many people who are unaware that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that others will hear my story and seek help, feeling comforted in knowing that they have options. I do not feel like any less of a woman for going through with the procedure. I honestly feel empowered that I was able to make a strong choice, one that could ultimately save my life. As Miss Summerville, and as Savanna, I hope that others hear my story and are influenced to be proactive, get checked yearly and to do self-checks. At 24, I stand with the 1 in 8.
Dr. Beatty and The Breast Place fully supported Savanna’s decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. This decision is huge and personal. It should be thought out by each individual who may be facing it with education and research to understand the risks and benefits of undergoing a major surgery. A mastectomy can be life changing as it alters the appearance of the body you have known from birth and the decision to undergo one with or without reconstruction should not be taken lightly. Dr. Beatty encourages everyone in a similar position to research the pros and cons of surgery and understand that reconstructive surgery can be difficult but beautiful. Here at The Breast Place, we support our patients making decisions that are best for them as an individual as healthcare is not “one size fits all.
Breast cancer doesn't choose who it claims. A pageant queen, a mother, a doctor, a sister, a friend, it doesn't matter. What does matter is exactly what Savanna shares, and that is to be aware and stay on top of your health. Take control and take your yearly checkups and self check-ups seriously. At just 24, she made a powerful decision, that although scary, empowered her and gave her the power of taking a step in her battle against cancer. We hope that Savanna's story does give you hope to seek help and take comfort in the fact that there are always options available to you. We are very grateful that Savanna found comfort and help with us, and we hope that if you're looking for the same, you know that our doors are always open to you. Don't live in the "shadow of cancer", but come out into the sun.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Savanna. We are so excited to see where your journey takes you, and to continue working with you in the future. We would also love to hear YOUR stories and to share your experience to comfort and inspire others. If you would like to share, email us your story and a photo of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured on our social media or in an upcoming blog post.
Remember, don't let Cupid's arrow get you down, and don't let it pop a hole in your sails. Love is something that we celebrate daily, and something we celebrate with you daily. Your journey is a daily struggle. It's hard, messy, scary, and frustrating. Remember that you have a place you are always welcome, and please know you are never alone.
After a mastectomy, it's best to know all the options that are available to you and to make the right choice for your body and your needs. We want to see you first and talk about all of your options, of course. But Natural Breast Reconstruction is one of those options that offers its own path. Let's visit all of these options together.
It is our passion to be here for you in your journey. From the very beginning we want to be here with support, care, and knowledge. Your journey, your needs, and your recovery are just as unique as you are. Helping you along this journey and keeping you informed and comfortable to the options readily available to you is your choice and our main focus. Having another choice is always important. As you've gone on this journey with your doctors, nurses, and support team, I'm sure you have researched, had questions, learned a lot, and searched for more options since your diagnosis.
Making smart, healthy, and informed choices dealing with your body through this process is incredibly important. As your journey continues, you'll also need to continue to make decisions. This could include making choices as you're possibly facing a mastectomy. There are many options out there for you, and the choice varies personally from patient to patient and what their needs are. You might be looking at hidden scar surgery, nipple-sparing mastectomy, implant reconstruction, or natural reconstruction. Know your options and what is best for your body and your needs.
As we continue our journey with these blogs, let's talk about natural reconstruction. This procedure takes tissue from your body (like your stomach, thighs, back, or buttocks) and creates the reconstructed breast. The tissue used in this procedure is called a "flap", and there are a handful of different flap surgeries available to you. One is called a Free Flap. This removes tissue from its original blood vessels and is moved to your chest. This type of flap procedure requires your plastic surgeon to be skilled in microsurgery, which allows the surgeon to attach the blood vessels from the tissue flap to the blood vessels in the chest at its new location. This allows the tissue to receive the correct amount of blood supply it needs to thrive. The tissue is then formed into the shape of a breast and is stitched into place.
Another choice is called a pedicled flap. This allows the tissue to remain attached to its original blood vessels and is moved under your skin to your chest. Once it is moved to your chest, it too is formed and stitched into place. The newly reconstructed breast will have little sensation as you find with implant surgery. One of the plus sides of a flap procedure is that the tissue used is from parts of the body that are similar to breast tissue and feels very natural.
This natural type of breast reconstruction has become very popular over the years because it usually lasts a lifetime. After 10 to 20 years implants need to be replaced. After your mastectomy, and before you make any decisions on breast reconstruction surgery, we want our patients to visit with us first before making any decision on what's next. You have time after your surgery to decide what's next for you, the decision does not need to be made right away.
Depending on where the flap tissue comes from, there are different names for each type. These are some examples.
Flap Tissue from your Belly
Flap Tissue from your Back
Flap Tissue from the HiP/Buttocks
Picking the best flap for you all depends on your body type, breast size, if you plan on getting pregnant in the future, guidance from your surgeon and doctor, and what hospitals and surgeons are available to you. This procedure and the process it takes to decide is unique to your body, your lifestyle, and what you want your life to be. We are here to help guide and support you through this decision. Please don't hesitate to explore our website to learn more or contact us for more information. Today, as always, we celebrate YOU!