Battle against breast cancer has to be taken head-on
When you live and work in a small town, sometimes you are forced to live your life out loud. Things that you may prefer to have been more personal or quiet get pulled into the harsh light of day and you get to experience it with a whole living room full of people. Such has been my experience with breast cancer. In late December ’09 I was diagnosed with stage II invasive ductile breast carcinoma with lymph node involvement. It was recommended that I have a bilateral mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction along with chemotherapy. I quickly found out that having to live life out loud in a small town was a pretty good thing. You find out how much support and love there is. I would be remiss if I did not say a huge Thank You to my family, friends and staff who took such great care of me.
The journey has been one of self discovery and realization of just how many people really care. The well wishers of cards and gifts and personal sentiments have been placed carefully in my hallway on a table that my father made for me as a daily reminder of just how many people were thinking of me and wishing and praying me well.
I learned that over 600,00 women are diagnosed annually and only 30 percent seek reconstruction. I can tell you that based on what I was seeing on the Internet – all of the less than favorable outcomes, I can see why. However…
Through a series of serendipitous events I found a clinic in New Orleans that specializes in breast cancer reconstruction. Here, they perform what is known as a skin-sparing mastectomy where the skin envelope is spared rather than the traditional surgery where the entire breast skin is removed, leaving a cratered and scarred chest wall. In addition, with the new surgery, often the nipple can be spared as well. Many large studies have been done and have all concluded that women receiving the skin-sparing mastectomy are not at any higher risk of recurrence than women receiving the more traditional surgery. The breast can then be reconstructed with implants or tissue from the patient’s own body. This is a highly specialized surgery and the doctors at St. Charles Surgical Hospital are one of only a few talented surgeons that can perform this surgery and perform it well.
Dr. Frank DellaCroce (my doctor) and Dr Scott Sullivan are co-founders of the St. Charles Surgical Hospital in New Orleans. Here, women are treated to the most cutting edge of medicine. The staff and doctors all are committed to the highest standards. Every attention to detail has been thought of. There is not a single spot in the three building complex that has not been considered. They have their own 15-bed hospital and surgical center where their talents are used recontructing women with breast cancer. The resulting outcomes are leaving women confident and feeling more whole after the devastating effects of prior surgeries and chemo and radiation. In addition, I found Dr. Scot Sedlacek who only is an oncologist, but specializes in breast oncology. He works through the Rocky Mountain Cancer Clinics in Denver. He and I discussed the treatment regimen and I began chemo. He and the staff at Rocky Mountain made a difficult situation much more human and caring. He and I will be monitoring my progress over the years and taking an aggressive stance to make sure that I remain healthy. His knowledge and expertise is second to none. He and the staff at Rocky Mountain Center Clinics were able to make each treatment as uneventful as possible and I was able to go through the entire experience as unscathed as possible.
I wanted to share this with you and have a link to Dr. Dellacroce’s center for breast reconstruction. They were able to get my insurance to work with them even though they are in New Orleans – another testament to their staff. If you of anyone you know ever has to face this type of surgery, I highly recommend that you seek treatment with Dr. Dellacroce or Dr. Sullivan. I had a great experience and have a wonderful outcome. I feel whole and confident with my beautiful results. I encourage you to please get the best treatment for yourself and be your own advocate, educate yourself, ask questions and be bold.
One last thing…my sincere thanks to my family, friends, my amazing staff and every person who sent a card, letter or gift. There are far too many to mention and I am so blessed to know that you cared enough to take the time to be there for me. And a special thank you to Mart Mangelsdorf who stood by my side, held my hand, let me cry on his shoulder and was my rock. I love you.
St. Charles Surgical Center
Dr. Frank Dellacroce
Dr. Scott Sullivan
Dr. Scot Sedlacek
Rocky Mountain Cancer Clinics