World Cancer Day 2017 is a global movement in the fight against cancer. How, might you ask, does that fit into my wheelhouse of educating about breast reconstruction options after mastectomy? Yes, mastectomy! And there is your answer. Every person I engage with on social media, each patient I talk to about planning a course of action to reconstruct their breasts, the research and education I seek to understand and share revolves around those who have had or will be having a mastectomy because of breast cancer or a high likelihood of getting it due to a BRCA gene mutation. My engagement through my Foundation work involves those individuals who have chosen the profession of plastic surgery, oncology, radiology, and breast surgery to serve those individuals affected by breast cancer. It is a community that spans the globe.
How did this all happen for me and how has it evolved over the past three years? A second diagnosis of breast cancer charted this unsuspecting course for me. I had a double mastectomy in May of 2014. I spent seven months completing scans, tests, and the psychological devastation that I personally experienced living without my breasts.
I pursued only the best board certified, highly successful plastic surgeon to perform my breast reconstruction and those seven months allowed me to do just that. I began my breast reconstruction journey on December 1, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, after traveling 800 miles from my home in Arizona to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo was my surgeon. He rebuilt my breasts after a series of three surgeries that included tissue, fat and blood vessel transfer from my tummy area to create my soft, warm, new breasts.
I had no idea what the power of social media combined with my story could do to assist others going through breast cancer. During my recovery from my first surgery I began writing my story in a blog. I shared it through various social media venues and it went global. Why? Community! The individuals I surrounded myself with were not only passionate about their work but supportive in spreading the word about the impact of breast cancer and what life could be like post breast cancer after reconstruction.
The past three years for me have been about rallying that broader group of individuals who are seeking to understand the impact of this disease through a focused mission of moving beyond cancer through breast reconstruction. You can only be as strong as those you surround yourself with like an unbreakable chain, a tour de force if you will, of like-minded community seeking to understand, cope, educate and influence others with positive collaboration to find a cure and move beyond a disease that disfigures and amputates body parts that define us as physical human beings.
This global community of patients and professionals establishes respect, trust, compassion and above all hope to fight a disease that knows no borders, gender, or cultural distinction. World Cancer Day 2017 is an opportunity for us to continue to raise our community voices with hope!
Terri Coutee is the Founder and Director of the non profit organization http://www.diepcfoundation.org/. The Foundation provides education and resources to empower patients with information and options in breast reconstruction after mastectomy. She writes a blog at http://diepcjourney.com/ about the personal account of her own breast reconstruction. While working on her M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership, Terri was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. She turned her years of being an educator into a purposeful life becoming an educator for breast reconstruction options after mastectomy. She has taken a keen interest in the passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act. She actively participates in social media administering an on-line support group, sharing evidence based research and engaging in community activities that support breast cancer and breast reconstruction. You can find her on Twitter @6state or on Pinterest and Instagram @tgcoutee.