Debbie – 32 Years Old
The Myself: Together Again Story
A project to empower young women through the breast reconstruction process
One Young Woman's Story of Breast Cancer Recovery and Reconstruction
Through the whirlwind of medical appointments you're keeping as a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer, reconstruction surgery may be the last thing on your mind. That's understandable. One 32-year-old woman living in North Carolina felt the same way when she was diagnosed in June 2004. Reconciling herself with the idea of plastic surgery - before she'd had a mastectomy, before she'd even begun treatment - was daunting at best. Even more difficult, no pictures existed that showed the process of a young woman's breast reconstruction, displaying a young woman's curves and skin elasticity.
The Myself: Together Again story of delayed breast reconstruction following double mastectomy surgery that appears on these pages was inspired by Debbie, who agreed to have the process photographed so that other young women like her could get an idea of what to expect.
But there is more involved in the decision to have plastic surgery than meets the eye.
When we're young, we're supposed to be growing our lives, and a mastectomy can make us feel like we're shrinking, both physically and emotionally. Debbie had just become engaged two months before she was diagnosed. Many women are in a relationship or dating, married with a young family or thinking of starting one in the future. Many are focused on building a career, and cannot imagine following treatment for cancer with an arduous reconstruction process like that of Debbie's - this can last another six to eight months. Still, Debbie was surprised to find so many breast cancer survivors in their 30s or younger who felt they didn't have the time or the right to rebuild their bodies, to put themselves back together. Debbie wanted to do more than show women what breast reconstruction looks like; she also wanted young women to know that they can be comfortable with themselves again.
Your path to your new self may be very different from Debbie's, or it may be much the same. Either way, you can be whole again, after cancer. After surgery. After treatment. For Debbie, breast reconstruction was worthwhile, even after the difficult task of surviving cancer. Her message is simple: This is your life. This is your body. Don't let this disease take it from you.
The M:TA project team hopes some of your questions are answered within these pages. But remember, your own medical team knows your unique situation best. This is just one woman's story and it is important to know that reconstruction results will vary for each woman.
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