This special post is the wonderful work of Amy Gesell, a survivor who received treatment at The Breast Place. Amy was kind enough to write about her experience, from her initial diagnosis through her recovery. What we stand to gain from listening to the accounts of survivors is a deeper understanding of how cancer diagnoses affect mental health, how community is an essential aspect of the healing process, and the importance of regular screenings. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of our incredible survivors. Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story!
"In January of this year, I went to my GP for a “check-in and a check-up” about my physical AND mental health. I’d been unusually moody, short-tempered, was hungry all the time, gaining weight…all things we sort of chalked up to my age (46). Having no solid history on when women in my family begin menopause, I naturally assumed that this was where I was headed.
Also, I’d been having pain in the left side of my chest, which left me wondering if I was headed for heart trouble. But there was also something else…this odd undercurrent that something was definitely NOT okay. I just couldn’t effectively communicate what that feeling was, so I was left stomping around my house, angry and frustrated, which is a complete 180 degree turn from my normal personality.
It was THAT feeling, the one that I couldn’t express, that caused my husband to encourage me to make an appointment with his doctor.
I resisted, initially. We live in a very rural area and it is a major pain to go in to town, get to know a new doctor, etc. Plus, I’d seen a different physician in that town once, years before, who was nice enough, but the follow up was lacking, so I never bothered to go back. Plus, I was sort of raised with this weird distaste for hypochondria. I had a cousin who thought she was dying every time she had a cold…she still thinks that way…and we still make fun of her for it. My point being - my belief was that if you’re not REALLY sick, don’t pester the doctor.
My husband’s encouragement and his concern over my mental health as well as my overall physical health helped me override this aversion to physicians and I agreed that he could make an appointment for me to see his physician, Dr. Gunther Rencken…who has literally turned out to be a life saver.
I walked into Dr. Rencken’s office with notebook and a litany of complaints. He patiently went through them one by one, helping me understand that I wasn’t going crazy. But, when we started to discuss my chest pain, he asked me the most important question of my life:
“When was your last mammogram?”
“Well, I had one last year. And it was normal. Well…normal for me. I mean, the guy called me back for more imaging, at which time he told me that he saw a spot that was probably just scar tissue from a previous lumpectomy of what was a benign tumor.”
And truly, I wasn’t worried at the time. I have fibrocystic breasts and for the whole of my life, had been running to physicians about the latest “lump,” only to discover it was “just a cyst.” I expected this to be the answer to all of my lumps for the rest of my life.
Besides, I’d always read that chest pain was NOT a sign of breast cancer…right?
My new doc then did something unexpected. He asked me to consider allowing him to, since I was already there, give me a breast exam (with a nurse present, of course) and especially the breast that had “the scar tissue.” I agreed and the look on his face as he palpated my left breast woke that little voice that had been begging for my attention for months: something, in fact, was not right.
He tried to reassure me by saying “Look, this could be nothing. It could absolutely be scar tissue. But rather than subject you to another mammogram, I’m going to refer you to a great doctor that specializes in this. Would you be willing to go see her? She is in Charleston, but it will be worth your time.”
I agreed. I received a phone call from Dr. Jennifer Beatty’s office at The Breast Place that very afternoon and they put me on the books ASAP.
A week later, I was in her office, oscillating between fear (OMG, I could have breast cancer) and shame (OMG, I’m making a big deal over nothing.)
Dr. Beatty and her staff did (and still do) everything within their power to alleviate you of any shame or embarrassment you may be feeling.
They also allow you to accept your fear. It’s shocking to realize how powerful you can become when you are given permission and/or the support to look into the face of your fear and say “I feel you.” Because, oddly, the minute you accept that you are afraid, the fear subsides a bit. Your heart rate slows. You breathe deeper.
And I was breathing deeply when Dr. Beatty showed me what she was seeing on my ultrasound.
I was breathing deeply when Dr. Beatty performed a painless (and when I say painless, I mean ZERO pain) needle biopsy.
And I took a deep breath when she personally called me, less than 24 hours later, to tell me that I did, indeed, have invasive ductal carcinoma.
It was really late in the afternoon and my husband was in the shower. I left him a note saying that I was going to the barn. And I did.
I swept, I cleaned the windows in the tack room, I polished the wood on the walls, cleaned some tack and watched the sun touch down on the horizon and wash everything in gold. How could this horrible moment be so beautiful? Not everyone may have this experience, and I’m sorry for that. But truly, the only thing I could do in that moment was be quiet, be gentle, and appreciate the beauty of the sun going down.
It took me four more hours after returning home to screw up the courage to tell my husband. Only two years prior, he’d lost both of his parents to cancer, 12 weeks apart, not knowing until their last days that they had cancer. (His mother, a rare and fast spreading uterine cancer and his father, a tough old Texan who’d had cancer for some time and had simply never shared that fact with his
family.) When I said the word “carcinoma” to him, he grew very pale and asked me what that meant. It took me days to realize that he thought that it meant that I was going to die…and soon. My heart broke for him more than my own. I mean, I love myself and I don’t want to die any time soon and certainly not from THIS, but it was in that moment that I realized that, no matter the outcome, he was going to suffer, too.
Dr. Beatty is a take charge, no b.s. leader and I am convinced that this is why I have fared so well. She and Dr. Rencken had me with orders for CT scans, MRI and bone scans before we made our plan of attack. Once the scans gave us the all clear, we moved forward with the plan of:
Nipple sparing mastectomy of the left breast.
Two weeks healing time (my tumor was really close to the skin, so we wanted some time to get the blood flowing to all the right places) and a replacement implant.
I’d be on the beach by the end of the summer!
But life, as we have already learned, holds lots of surprises for us. The presence of cancer cells were found in one of the lymph nodes removed during my mastectomy…so our plans had to change and another soldier was engaged to help me keep marching forward.
Dr. Beatty worked with Dr. Yannis Bellil, an oncologist in Charleston. We then changed our plan of attack. To use his terminology, we, via mastectomy, had “plucked the dandelion from the green at the Masters Course (golf reference).” Now, we had to cast about to make sure no more dandelions were going to pop up.
I engaged in four sessions of chemotherapy, each delivered three weeks apart.
Some women tough it out and it doesn’t disrupt their lives in the slightest.
Some women have days where they’re bad, but some good.
Some women stay very near a toilet and refuse food and water and have to get fluids administered to them every time they show up for chemo because…well…that’s just how their bodies handle it. (Me. I was that woman.)
To say that chemo was hard on me is an understatement. I don’t know why I didn’t handle it well, but for the three weeks between, I did not eat for two and then ate like Michael Phelps prepping for the Olympics for the third in order to maintain a good weight. I lost weight, but never so much that medical intervention was necessary. Also, I would have odd reactions two weeks in: my lips and eyes would swell as if stung by bees or something. So EXTRA steroids always had to be on hand.
There were days when I thought:
“Yep. You’re dying. This is it. They were wrong. You’re a dead duck.”
And as the chemotherapy dissipated from my system, I’d get strong again and think “What the hell was that? You’re not a dead duck! You’re a roaring tiger! A bucking, Hancock-bred chestnut mare! (Horse people will get that.) You’re FINE.”
And then we’d start all over again.
Speaking of which, I don’t ever WANT to do it again…but looking at the quality of my life right now, I would do it all over again in a heart beat.
Then came radiation! Ahhhhh! Radiation! The longest shortest treatment of one’s cancer life! Every day, I would make the 1.5 hour drive to Charleston, kick back and practically fall asleep as the radiation techs told me to “breathe in, hold it, breathe out.” (Which I still hear in my sleep…) Between my radiation oncologist, Dr. Clay’s, bright and funny attitude and the incredibly kind staff, radiation was a breeze. Costco sized tubs of Aquaphor helped my skin stay pretty unscathed, too. I’ve heard that some women suffer terribly during radiation. I am fortunately not one of those women.
I am what Dr. Rencken promised me.
I am what Dr. Beatty promised me.
I am what Dr. Bellil promised me.
I am what Dr. Clay promised me.
I am what I promised my husband I would be:
I am okay.
Do I have days where the panic hits me and I stress over whether it’s coming back for me?
Do I work myself into a frenzy over things like “toxins” in everything from my water to my cosmetics?
Am I afraid that if I indulge in a full-fat, whole milk vanilla latte, that an army of cancer cells will awaken and attack me once more?
Am I obsessing over how close to perfect my plastic surgeon can make my breasts look after having been through so much trauma?
Absolutely. (And on some days, absolutely not. If it ever came down to “Living Flat vs. Dying with Curves,” I’m choosing living flat. I understand that not everyone will understand that, but it’s my own choice.)
Do I get that awful crushing feeling in my chest when I hear that someone that I even tangentially know has died from breast cancer? Or that I get sick to my stomach when I remember that one of my “cancer buddies” has metastatic breast cancer and there’s nothing anyone can do other than what they’re already doing? Yes, yes, and yes.
Also, I need to say this: my cancer was a slow growing type and I probably had it for quite some time before I was diagnosed. I am still not fully recovered from chemo and surgeries, but I still PHYSICALLY feel better than I have in two years. I suspect that the phantom “exhaustion” I was feeling for the two years prior to my diagnosis had something to do with the fact that I had cancer. Maybe. Maybe not.
Oh! And the hair thing? Shit. I thought it was going to break my heart. It didn’t. I may never have “mermaid hair” again, but I didn’t look terrible bald, I didn’t look bad in the “GI Jane stage,” and, frankly, it’s been fun wearing wigs with hats on occasion. (Wigs alone didn’t work for me. They always looked “wiggy.” This may not be the case for everyone!)
If you’re still reading this, here are some things I want you to know:
Yes. I still hate a hypochondriac…but what I think about hypochondriacs isn’t any of your business. IF YOU FEEL OFF, GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR.
If you have a family history of not just breast cancer, but ANY gynecological issues (PPMD, raging PMS, heavy bleeding, fibroids, etc.) ask your physician about what you can do for earlier screenings for breast and other gynecological cancer. Correlation is not causation, but I am convinced that my life-long hormonal issues absolutely have something to do with me being susceptible to the type of cancer I had. If I’m wrong, your doctor can tell you…BUT ASK.
Get to know your breasts. If you have a fibroid issue like I did, ask your physician to help you learn about the difference in the “feel” of a cyst vs. “something else.” And always schedule an appointment if something new pops up. Don’t feel that you’re “a bother.”
DOCTORS WANT TO HELP YOU. And they would love to help you before the situation is dire. So please, don’t forget regular check ups…hell, schedule them on your birthday as one friend of mine does. That way, you never skip it!
I will admit that I have some ways to go before I feel that I can “move on” from this. I’ll be looking into the face of fear every day for at least the next five years before I can breathe easy again. I’m on a hormone blocker, menopause hit me like a ton of bricks, but shockingly, I am not miserable.
And I will never be miserable again.
My doctors went out of their way, they worked hard, they organized, they pulled together, they DROVE ME through the scariest thing that has ever happened to me and by doing so, gave me the power to keep putting one foot in front of the other when I was weak and to swing out with every jab and punch I had when I was strong. I owe it to THEM and to MYSELF to take the life I have left and enjoy it. Despite the occasional fears, control issues and neuroses that pop up, I am still happy. I am healthier every day, and I am alive.
The connection between a healthy lifestyle and healthy breasts is incredible. Not only can it help prevent breast cancer, but it can also help increase your odds of beating the disease and not letting it come back!
Hello warriors, readers, and faithful friends! Spring is here and the taste of summer is right around the corner. We've all been getting out more and more as it becomes safer to do so and as the weather allows. There is nothing like a beautiful walk through downtown, on the beach, through one of our many state parks, or one of our many historical sites. The Lowcountry offers so much that it's just calling for us to get up and get out right now! It's also an incredible mecca for foodies and all-natural purveyors! You can find every kind of delicious meal prepared at one of our many fine dining locations or buy it fresh out of the ocean and right off the farm. Healthy lifestyle choices can help you enjoy the beautiful Lowcountry life, make you feel amazing, and it can help you prevent breast cancer, help you defeat it, and make sure it never comes back!
Breast cancer is a reality we all face. While some have a genetically higher chance of getting it than others, this silent killer doesn't discriminate. It picks and chooses at will. For those who have had breast cancer and are fighting to make sure it never returns, this battle is a constant worry. While we fight to discover a cure, there are things you can do right now, small changes in your lifestyle, to make whatever battle you might be fighting more successful. It's a tough battle, one that we try to educate everyone we possibly can about. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, affecting more than one and a half million women every year, with more than three million breast cancer survivors in the US alone right now. With numbers like that, it's an overwhelming thought if there is anything we can do to help make a difference in this battle. While there is no cancer-preventing food or specific exercise, a healthy lifestyle and many factors that go along with it correlates with being able to lower your overall risk. Any chances you can take to lower your risk are worth considering and implementing, and we are here to help you with the rest!
There are some things about our bodies and our health that are out of our control. However, when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, our health is in our hands and we have the choice and the ability to care for ourselves. As health guru, fitness trainer, and ex-Rockette Amanda Kloots says "exercising is a privilege that we have every day. Getting up and moving our bodies is a gift." Let's celebrate that we are the incredible, powerful unique women that we are and that we can help our bodies fight against cancer with small daily changes and choices. We are here for you along the way, during your fight, and after. If you would like to begin or if you have any questions about our services including family history and genetic testing, survivorship, scar revision, body contouring, facial rejuvenation, laser hair removal, or lactation, please contact us today! Until next time, get up and get moving. You have another day to make healthy choices!
The 2020 holidays have been and will continue to be difficult for all of us. Not being able to travel, see our loved ones, or do many of our favorite traditions is going to be strange. While it might be hard, it might be incredibly beneficial for everyone going through and living with a cancer diagnosis.
Hello, warriors, friends, and dear readers! We know the holiday season can be incredibly difficult for you and for many reasons. While going through your cancer treatments you begin to ask those dark lurking questions; how will this affect my family? How long do I have left? Am I going to beat this? When the holidays come around, these questions tend to get a little darker; what will the holidays be like after I'm gone? Is this my last Christmas? How many more holidays do I have left? While we will try to do everything we can to help comfort and support you on this difficult journey, we also know that sometimes even the most comforting words and actions can't touch those dark places and dark thoughts. However, that doesn't mean we are going to stop our positivity and hope that we want to share with you anytime soon. This blog is going to be a few different things; something to help cheer you up, give you some hope, provide some insight to your loved ones and our readers, and to give everyone a little perspective. We've now all heard it one too many times, that this year is going to be different from all the rest. Through all the difficulties this year has given us, and the fact that this will be hard to spend the holidays apart, this might be something good for all of our warriors going through their treatments, diagnosis, and those living in their survivorship.
The holidays without cancer are already hard difficult; you're constantly running around, shopping, worrying about seeing everyone, making plans, cooking, attending all the holiday events, and trying to make everyone happy. The holidays with cancer are even more difficult. Its all of your normal holiday stress combined with always being tired, feeling sick, having to say no to things and dealing with the guilt that comes with that, being sick, not being able to taste or eat your favorite foods, not being able to participate in your favorite activities, and more. It's a lot, and when your family and friends outside of your close and supportive care group and team don't quite understand this, it makes it even more difficult. We don't need to go into any more detail, because you already understand this. You're living this right now and you've been going through it ever since you were diagnosed. However, this year might be a little different
A Holiday To Pause
For the past nine months our lives, what's safe, and how we are living has all changed. For our warriors and those in survivorship and remission, you've had to be extra safe, as have your immediate members of your bubble and everyone who lives with you. You are making even fewer trips outside of your house, you could be working from home, seeing a very limited amount of people, you may have been going into doctors appointments and treatments alone, faced canceled and rescheduled doctors appointments, spent a lot of time on Zoom, and more. Now that the holidays are here and the pandemic numbers haven't improved but have instead continued to grow, everyone is starting to see changes. Our favorite Christmas gatherings have been canceled or made virtual, large gatherings are still not recommended, traveling is still not recommended, and it is still recommended that you limit your exposure and stay home as much as possible. While this is devastating for so many, this is something that needs to be observed by our warriors and their families.
While choosing to be healthy and staying healthy, you are also protecting others by limiting your exposure. You can take the opportunity of not being able to gather and travel this year to rest and enjoy the holidays how you choose instead of stressing yourself out. You can slow down and create new traditions with your loved ones inside your bubble and create unique ones with all the family you'll be seeing virtually this year. If your treatments are difficult over the holidays and you're sick, feeling ill, or are exhausted you don't have to make up any excuses or feel bad about not being able to attend a holiday function. As difficult as the holidays are, as difficult as this year has been, take this time to rest, recover, fight, heal, and keep yourself safe while the world is on pause. We do urge you to remember this: please understand to be even more conscious for our warriors who don't have the immune system or strength to battle off what we are all trying to fight off and avoid. Remember, they are already fighting a battle. Don't give them another one to fight.
To our dear care teams and family members who make up the family bubbles for all of our warriors, we know this time of year is difficult for you as well, and that 2020 has not made that any easier. Please continue to be safe and to practice all of your safety measures because this isn't just for you. You're doing all of this and being safe for them and everyone else you see this holiday season. Even if it is difficult to say no and you choose to celebrate safely this year, that is the best gift you can give to everyone. With that on your mind, we also wanted to share a few more ideas on how to help your loved ones going through this holiday. We also wanted to share some ideas and tips for our warriors to remember, too!
We know this time of year is difficult. We know this blog might come off a little strangely, but we are searching for and highlighting all the silver linings that we can find. We are here for you, fighting for you, and very much in this boat with you this holiday season. If anything, please remember these things when walking away from the blog today:
Through the difficulties of this year, your battle with breast cancer and remission, the holidays, the pandemic, and everything in between, we are here. We are here to help comfort, help with your healing, and help you feel better in as many ways as possible. Keep searing for your silver linings and let's carry them into the new year!
While Breast Cancer is something that all of our warriors experience and fight for every day, October is an opportunity to spread this awareness on an even high level and open the world's eyes to what this disease really is.
Hello, warriors! Welcome back to the blog and welcome back to part two of our blog discussing what breast cancer awareness means to us. While we are rapidly approaching the end of October and the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we hope you know how incredibly proud we are of each of you. We know this year's difficult situation has prevented us from doing what we all normally like to do to spread awareness, raise money, and gather with our fellow fighters, supporters, and warriors. 2020 can't cancel our hope, our fight, our journey, or the color pink. We all continue to stand in solidarity together, continue to fight together, and support one another. We know this year might be weighing heavy on you and your family, but please believe us when we say that we understand and we are with you. Please continue on your journey, continue with your fight, and continue using your story to prepare and educate others. Your fight can be a light in the darkness for others and for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Have you been feeling at a loss this month, that you haven't found your voice in this battle, that you're not giving back enough or doing enough? Don't be discouraged. Your voice and everything you're doing every day speaks volumes. To help give our own bit of help and support for the rest of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond, we wanted to create a blog on how to make everyday Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Your voice, your journey, and how you choose to handle and battle your diagnosis is a testament in itself. Even if you aren't particularly vocal or you don't share your experience in a blog or through social media, that doesn't mean your journey doesn't impact others. When you go in for your treatments, consider the people sitting around you. This could be their very first or very last treatment. A kind smile, sharing your experiences with them, or just being a positive presence within this little snapshot of time can cause a ripple effect to those battling around you. How youR battle progresses also doesn't go unnoticed by your doctor or nurses. They find comfort, inspiration, and drive from how hard you fight and in the relationship you build together.
Your journey and battle can bring you closer to your loved ones than ever before and can create a bond that you never expected. How you live in your survivorship and how you share your experiences with a new friend or coworker leaves an impression too. Don't think you have to shout from the rooftops and put yourself in the spotlight if you don't want to. Every step of your journey affects someone. If you want to be public about your experience, that is a welcomed expression too. Writing a blog, documenting your experiences on Facebook or Instagram, being a mentor to someone recently diagnosed, participating in group meetings, and more can also help others and raise awareness. No matter how you chose to share and express your experience, both are just as important and beneficial as the other.
There are many steps you and your loved ones can take to promote awareness throughout the entire year, here are some tips and suggestions to make that possible.
We know that your voice is important. Each of your individual stories is worth telling, saving, and sharing. We know that awareness and what we need to cure breast cancer isn't at the level that it deserves and what it should be. Every day we are fighting to make your voices louder, the cure closer, and helping to educate the world about this horrible disease. While so much of the world just sees Breast Cancer Awareness Month as pink ribbons and fundraisers, we see your stories, your pain, your frustrations, and all that you go through every day. Let us stand together to make Breast Cancer Awareness month more than just a month, and finally beat this disease once and for all.
Every day is breast cancer awareness month, but October is when we all turn pink. During this month, we celebrate those who have fought, those who have lost, and those who stand beside us. One day at a time, we are trying to save as many lives as possible!
Hello, warriors! As you know, October has dawned and brought in Breast Cancer Awareness month. We know this is a daily fight and battle for you and your loved ones, but October brings your reality into the light of the rest of the world. You finally get the attention you deserve, and you really get to share the truth about breast cancer and how truly devastating it is right in front of the eyes of the public. We wish breast cancer, the need for a cure, and the battle you all fight could get this kind of attention every day and every month. Since we only have one month, we are going to make the most of it. It's time to educate, spread the world, and share your truth. Remember that we see you, we support you, we hear you, and we will be here for you every step of your battle!
According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, 115 lives are lost to metastatic breast cancer every day, and 2 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. What's even more shocking than those numbers is the fact that each of these statistics is still a surprise to millions of people every day. It's still a shock that it is more common to be diagnosed with cancer before you turn 40 than most people realize, and it is still possible to be diagnosed with cancer during your pregnancy. While these are all topics we have touched on many times in our blogs, across our social media, and as much as we possibly can in our offices, it's still not enough. That is why we must continue to raise awareness every day.
This is the perfect time to use your voice and your story to educate others in realizing their chances of getting breast cancer and what signs they need to be looking for. Use your survivorship to spread the word about early education and to promote self-breast exams from a young age. While this is a battle that you wage every day, when October rolls around, it's time to turn that fight in a new direction. The world needs to hear your stories and your truth, and you deserve to be heard. October goes beyond wearing pink. We are finally getting the opportunity to fight publicly and with the public's attention. To all of our warriors, we are so sorry that you don't get this kind of support and attention every day, and every month, you deserve it. Your fight and the struggles your family goes through every day deserves to be more than a trending hashtag for 31 days that casually gets overlooked by Halloween. Let us join together to change this and continue to spread information out into the world together, and to finally cure this horrible and devastating disease!
While we are standing strong together spreading awareness and teaching about the importance of early detection, what else can we do this month and beyond to make the most out of breast cancer awareness month, outside of wearing our pink tags? Obviously, because of the current pandemic, this year might look a little different. We might not be able to gather like we have been used to. We might not be able to cheer each other on or walk for our loved ones in person or in big crowds, but that doesn't mean you can't make the most of this month and still support the future of the breast cancer cure. We have been doing our research and listening to all of you on how we can continue to support one another. One of the first resources we stumbled upon was Breast Cancer Now. This incredible foundation, set in the UK, will give you an incredible outside look at what the world is doing to help all of us achieve our common goal of curing breast cancer. They have an incredible social media presence and an incredible website. In years past, we might not have been able to attend some of their events, but the silver lining is that thanks to the wonders of the internet and needing to stay home for our safety - we can join together and be a stronger community than ever before. Make sure to visit their website by following the link below!
They also have two very important and inspiring ways of getting involved in your community that were so inspiring to us that we had to share. These fantastic ideas are all things that you can do right now here in the US and that will both be a wonderful addition to our fight this month and beyond. These events are all inspired by their "press play" platform, and we just think it's outstanding. So let's sit back and press play together!
Have you been feeling like you're not giving back enough, doing enough, or that you haven't found the right voice of action for your personal path? That's okay! This month we are going to continue to share more ideas on how all of our warriors and their loved ones can give back, keep fighting, and how to bring awareness into everyday life - and not just in October! Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Early detection is extremely important. During your self-breast exams, you might find a lump or mass that may or may not be cancer. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Hello warriors! We hope this blog finds you happy and well. We've talked about the importance of early detection in almost every blog, eblast, and social media post we've ever made. We can't stress enough just how important they are. With our last few blogs discussing the realities of breast cancer appearing in younger generations more often than many people realize, self-exams continue to become more and more important. When you're young, your breast tissue is denser and harder to penetrate and locate anything out of the ordinary in a mammogram. This makes your self-exams so important. You know when something doesn't feel right on your body or has seemed to appear overnight, and you will know and notice better than anyone else. Bringing these changes to your doctor's attention is crucial, but sometimes these aren't always lumps that are connected to cancer. It is so easy to get wrapped up and scared, constantly asking yourself "is this cancer, or is this something else?". This is why it is so important to understand what the different lumps and masses are that could appear inside and around your breast.
First of all, you need to know a little bit more about the breast tissue and the breast itself. The breast tissue is made up of adipose (fat) tissue, lobules, and ducts. There is a chain of lymph nodes known as the intramammary lymph nodes that run within the breast tissue as well. There are many benign masses like cysts, fibroadenomas, abscesses, and fat necrosis that occurs in the breast. Some should be removed by a breast surgeon and some are fine to let be as long as they don't grow or become painful - always make that decision with a trained surgeon. The density of your breast tissue can also affect how these lumps are to be felt or palpitated. As you age, your breast tissue becomes replaced with fatty tissue that is not as dense, making visualizing these abnormalities on mammograms easier. Some benign masses can increase your risk for breast cancer so even though they are benign, it;s important to notify your provider of any changes. When in doubt, get it checked out!
[Breast cancer lumps]
Let's start with the more dangerous lumps and bumps on this list before we talk about the more benign things you might be feeling. According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, most of the breast lumps you'll be feeling will be benign, won't be cancerous, and most won't have to be removed. If they are, this won't affect the breast's natural function.
The early signs of breast cancer are different for every woman. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, the most common warning signs of cancer in its earliest stages are nipple discharge, a change in how your nipple looks or feels, or a change in how your breast looks or feels. If you have these symptoms, please notify your doctor.
Breasts themselves have a lumpy texture. Not every unique lump that you feel is a tumor or lump that needs attention, but a part of your natural breast makeup. The lumps that should catch your attention are those that feel different from the rest of your breast tissue, ones that feel hard, and ones that have suddenly appeared.
According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, these lumps or thickenings will appear most often in the top part of the outer breast and into the armpit. The tissue is thicker there than anywhere else on your breast. According to VeryWellHealth, some other warning signs include these hard bumps not moving during your self-examination and that your breast might feel like it has a very pebbly surface. There are a few precancerous lumps that also need strict attention and should be removed right away.
[Benign lumps and masses]
There are many different types of benign masses that you might come across in your lifetime. As we've mentioned, many of them are not dangerous and you might not have to have them removed at all. You should still be aware of what you're feeling.
Knowing your breasts and the lumps and bumps inside them are very important. Being educated on what you're feeling can calm your fears and worries, and help you to action rather than panic. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to reach out. We would rather look and find something benign than being kept in the dark about something serious.
Did you know we will donate $1 for every unit of Botox administered to breast cancer patients and research? We are partnering with various organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Hope Lodge and *soon* Share Our Suzy Lowcountry to give back to the breast cancer community. Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at any age is difficult. Being diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy can make that difficultly paramount. In this blog, we will be discussing pregnant associated breast cancer and its realities.
We hope that if you've been reading our blog consistently, or have stumbled upon it recently, that there are few things we always want our readers to walk away with; that early detection is key, no one determines how you fight your battle, and to eliminate the stigma that breast cancer only appears later in life. While it is more common to be diagnosed with breast cancer after menopause, we hope that you've seen in our blogs that it is more common than you'd think to be diagnosed at a much younger age. Even more eye-opening, you can be diagnosed during your pregnancy. Just like any condition, there are plenty of rumors and myths floating around the internet. One that we've debunked before is that pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause cancer. While the two are not related, it is still possible to be diagnosed with breast cancer during your pregnancy.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at this point in your life can come with a huge mix of emotions, ranging from joy of expecting your first child to the fear and panic of what could happen next. Please know you are not alone, and that there are many positive options to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy. Never hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, and know we are always here for you!
You fight so hard during your treatment while your body gets beaten up every day. What can you do to make yourself feel better in your daily regime of self-care?
As we've discussed throughout many of our recent blogs, claiming and celebrating who you are is a challenge during breast cancer treatment and recovery. Coming to terms with and allowing yourself to feel positive about how you look, feel, and care for yourself is part of your battle and survivorship journey. Self-care and self-love are just as important to your battle as your doctor's visits are. You might be rolling your eyes as you read that, but think about the days where you felt good or were truly realized through your treatment and recovery. Did you get a good night's rest? Feel like yourself again? Feel good in your skin? Did you take time for yourself and maybe had a bath and a facial?
[Mental Health and How It Feels]
These little moments of good have such a huge and positive effect on your mental health, which is one of the first things affected by your diagnosis and treatment. Improving any part of your health and quality of life during these difficult times can help strengthen your battle. So please, don't turn your nose up at self-care. Before your diagnosis, you had your beauty regime and care that was unique and so wonderfully you. That doesn't have to stop with your diagnosis. It might change and evolve, but that's ok too! In this two-part blog, we are going to be sharing some tips and suggestions on how to have and maintain a beauty regime that celebrates you and is dedicated to making you feel better during and after treatment.
The physical changes that you can see are sometimes harder than the effects that chemo and treatment leave behind. It sinks in when you can see the changes, and not see you looking back in the mirror. Your body hair can be gone, your skin is dry, blotchy and pained, your nails are weak and cracking, the shape of your body can change, and you could have pieces of you removed and then added back, with scars left behind. Every fashion item you used to come into contact with affects you differently than it did before, from how it feels to how it will affect your skin or toenails. Fashion magazines offer little when it comes to positive reinforcements or guidance. Thankfully, designers like Stella McCartney has designed bras for those who have had double mastectomies. Jewelry like statement earrings and necklaces can really pop against scars or bald heads or hide a chemo port. More and more designers are creating comfortable, flattering, and beautiful clothing pieces, head scarfs, and other garments with breast cancer patients in mind. But what about your skin and the rest of your regime?
Chemo affects your skin in so many ways and can leave your complexion blotchy and even change it completely. Chemo also affects your sense of smell, so anything overly perfumed or has a strong smell can make you sick during or after treatment. Try finding and investing in natural skincare that has little to no fragrance and is paraben-free. Nontoxic beauty products can limit the exposure to harmful chemicals and ingredients while your skin and body are so sensitive and susceptible during treatment. They are also much gentler on the skin, which could have become extremely sensitive as a result of your treatments. This goes beyond facial lotions, washes, and toners. Look into all-natural and fragrance-free nontoxic eyeliners, lipstick, lashes, lash glue, eyebrow pencils, and more. Be mindful, there are toxic ingredients that still exist in manufactured makeup and beauty products that can cause cancer. You don't want to put these in or on your body, as you are already at risk with a compromised immune system. Adding natural deep hydrating lotion and healing ointments can combat whatever chemo does to your skin and soothe it away. Add in under-eye patches, face masks, sheet masks, and at home facial kits to help you relax, care for your skin, and give it a new glow.
When washing, make sure all of your skin is cared for, and not just your face. Use very gentle soaps that also have light or very little fragrance. Avoid products that contain alcohol and put away your antiaging creams and products. Many of which, according to Everyday Health, can irritate your skin even more than it is during treatment. Cornstarch can soothe irritation on your skin, and limiting shaving can help avoid irritation as well. Make sure to limit your sun exposure, and always wear sunscreen. Don't forget to cover your head and always bring your lip balm!
In the same safe non-toxic and organic world of beauty products, you can add some fake lashes and brows too. The options are staggering when it comes to these products. You can even professionally have sets of eyelashes put in, and you have the option of stencils, stamps, pencils, and eyebrow wigs to fill your eyebrows. Using bronzers and highlight can help with a natural glow without wearing too much makeup, and quartz colors around your eyes and a bold flash of red can make your lips pop!
Please remember, the choice to do any of this is yours and yours alone. Not societies, not a family member, not a friend. Many of our patients use these tips to feel more like themselves, to feel more feminine, and to care for their skin during and after treatment. But, just like your journey through survivorship, it's unique to your personal needs. In the second part of this blog, we will be discussing tips for your nails, regrowing your hair, and hair care. If you have any questions about this any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.
We have several services to make you look and feel exactly how you want, and to provide natural options for oncoplastic surgery. What should you expect when you're about to go through a breast lift and reduction?
In our last two blogs, we've discussed some of our many treatments and services we offer to help your battle with breast cancer and survivorship journey. Each of these services can improve your quality of life mentally, physically, and emotionally. Today we want to talk about and discuss one of our oncoplastic surgery services, breast lifts, and reductions. Oncoplastic surgery is aimed at breast cancer surgery with or with reconstruction to improve cosmetic outcomes for our patients. Our medical providers are trained and certified in oncoplastic surgery as well as Hidden Scar (trademarked) surgery, nipple spanning mastectomies, breast lift and reductions, implant repair, and natural reconstruction. Today, our blog is going to be focused on breast lift and reduction, what our services look like, and what to expect with the procedure. The surgery itself is the rearrangement of tissue after breast disease is removed. It allows the shape and size of the breast to be repaired.
Depending on your needs and what your cancer diagnosis is, you might choose to have both of your breasts removed (a double mastectomy) to remove the breast with cancer and to eliminate any risk of it returning. You also might choose to have both of your breasts removed to eliminate any diagnosis if you are a high-risk individual. Some choose to or only need to remove one breast, replacing it with natural reconstruction or an implant to match their other breast. Some only have cancerous tissue removed from one breast, leaving the shape and size of the breast altered and different from the other breast. This is where our breast lift and reduction services come into the picture.
The removal of the cancerous tumor and lymph nodes, not the whole breast itself, is called a lumpectomy. Breast tissue will also be removed with the tumor that it was connected to that could continue to put the patient at risk. This will cause the shape of your original breast to change during this surgery. This is where the lift begins. Your breast will be reconstructed, along with the placement of your nipple and areola. It will naturally be placed higher on your body and look "perkier" since tissue and skin have been removed to create a smaller firmer breast. Your other breast will still be its original size, and your nipples will no longer be symmetrical. This is where the next step, reduction, begins. Your surgeon will remove tissue from your other breast to match the newly constructed breast and move the nipple as well.
You can have a reduction and lift, or oncoplastic surgery, during your lumpectomy. There are many advantages to doing so. One is that you'll only have to go through one surgery, instead of two. It also helps with limiting or eliminating the risk of cancer returning to the breast that held the cancerous tumor, because it allows for more tissue to be removed. It is easier for a surgeon to achieve better symmetry when doing a lift and reduction at the same time as a lumpectomy. Also, those suffering from pain caused by having naturally large breasts will receive relief from that pain while keeping their risk of returning cancer very low.
Please note that a breast lift doesn't make the breast bigger or smaller. That is done with the removal of tissue or adding in tissue from another part of your body or with the use of implants. The lift itself is your surgeon tightening and reshaping your breast tissue, the removal of excess skin, and making sure your areola and nipple are in the desired position. Our services allow the shape and size changes of your breast to be repaired on both the affected breast and the non-cancerous breast. A breast reduction will allow your non-cancerous breast to be reshaped into a smaller, lighter, firmer breast that will sit higher on your chest. Both surgeries can be outpatient procedures, with a short recovery time. Many women can return to work 2-3 weeks after their surgery. As it goes with any surgery, there are some risks involved. Those risks can include the loss of feeling in the nipple or breast, bleeding, scarring, and infection. It can also inhibit the ability to breastfeed. Make sure to speak with us about your pregnancy plans and plans after surgery before deciding to take this journey.
Your breast cancer battle is tough, but you're tougher. We are here to make it as easy as possible and to stand with you along the way. If you have any questions about breast lift and reductions, or about any of our services, don't hesitate to reach out. Continue to fight, be proud of the journey you're on, and be well.