Erika’s Story: Breast Cancer Reconstruction and the Winding Road
The twists and turns of a breast cancer journey can be unpredictable, more so if reconstruction is in your plan
Initial Diagnosis: Breast Surgery Options?Erika advocates for breast self-exams; it’s how she discovered her cancer in January of 2018. Thankfully, she caught it fairly early: “I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple-positive breast cancer… My treatment plan started and moved forward pretty fast. I survived 6 rounds of a chemo cocktail that lasted 6 months, and 17 rounds of Herceptin. And I had a double mastectomy with delayed reconstruction,” she explains.
What’s somewhat surprising is that Erika wasn’t really given any other options. “The only thing discussed was double mastectomy with reconstruction,” she says, and that’s not uncommon. Many patients aren’t told that they could choose to go flat, or to wear breast prosthetics – but it’s also true that most women want breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
It isn’t that one choice is better than another, it’s just that women should be informed about all the choices. Ultimately, it's her decision to make.
Sometimes the Patient Journey Takes a Little Longer
Most women realize that their breast cancer diagnosis might mean several months of difficulty. They understand that surgeries, treatments, breast cancer reconstruction, side effects, and healing all depend on many factors, and will take some time.
For Erika, reconstructive surgery began in May of 2019, and she spent the next several weeks enduring the expansion process. A breast tissue expander is an empty breast implant that the surgeon fills regularly with saline over a period of time, to allow the skin to expand and accommodate the full implant. “It is painful,” as many breast cancer reconstruction patients will agree, and Erika says It wasn’t always easy, but she learned she was strong. “I’m as resilient as they come!” she shares proudly.
But then, a surprising detour: In early 2021, Erika learned that her implants had shifted out of place, requiring another surgery to fix them. “I wasn’t expecting that,” she says, “and I felt nervous and anxious about going under again. It brought a lot of anxiety and triggered some PTSD-like feelings.”
Remembering your first surgeries, and anticipating those emotions again – not to mention the physical recovery time — can make it feel like you’re starting over at the beginning. Like all that road you’ve already travelled has somehow buckled underneath you.
Read more about how Amoena can support you at every point along your journey. The Amoena Solution is with you every step of the way.
Taking Good Care After Breast Reconstruction Surgery
This time around, Erika has been using the Amoena Leyla compression bra as she recovers from her revision surgery. She says it’s “super comfortable, not overly tight – it has just the right compression for the first 2 weeks.” She and her surgeon are hopeful that managing her surgery site with this garment will help establish her implants and keep them in place this time – and that maybe, once her scars also heal, her journey as a patient will slow down, and she’ll just be able to go on with her life.
Life as a Breast Cancer Survivor and Ambassador
Since the beginning, Erika has been open about the various stages of her journey with cancer. She runs several popular Instagram accounts, including @yourpinksis and @yourbreastfrienddiaries, which is also the name of her growing podcast. Why share her scars and stories? “Because there’s beauty, strength and resilience behind them. I want to inspire other women by being a mastectomy model -- by showing I am grateful for my scars. Even though my body is now different, it is still beautiful! My new body represents a battle I won.”
In the photo here, Erika models an Amoena bra and panty set. She says that the face in her tattoo (exquisite, isn't it?) represents her breast cancer journey.
We’re so glad Erika is sharing her story with us as an Amoena Ambassador. She’s definitely proof that after mastectomy, breast reconstruction, or any breast surgery journey, however long, life can be lived to the fullest, with purpose: “Fight hard!” she advises, “so that your journey can be someone else’s survivor guide.”