It was such a pleasure to take part once again in the Pink Elegance Fashion Show in Scranton this past Sunday. The Komen for the Cure in NEPA event always gets a huge turnout. It seemed like only yesterday when I first walked the runway in a fabulous outfit from Nada & Company. I believe my first year was in 2009, about a year and a half past my breast cancer diagnosis.
My hair was really short then. I lost it all due to the chemotherapy and it took some time to grow back in. The story goes that many women end up with curly hair after chemo, but despite my wishes, mine grew back as poker straight as ever.
I skipped a year as a model at the show because I had gone through a grueling 10 hour reconstructive surgery that had me hospitalized for 7 days, and in recovery for weeks. I spent a number of those weeks doing daily hyperbaric treatments. If you’re claustrophobic like me, that takes a little getting used to. You get put into a coffin like capsule where it takes 7 to 10 minutes to change the pressure. The good news is it’s all glass you can see through. The bad news is if you freak out and want out, you have to wait those 7 to 10 minutes for the pressure to normalize or you’ll end up with the bends.
It was a long journey for me to get to where I am physically today. Aside from the quest for good health, breast cancer survivors struggle with the need to look normal again. For some, a breast prosthesis is the right choice. For others, reconstruction is necessary. As someone who had a double mastectomy complicated by radiation, it was pretty challenging. The skin on the radiated side was so damaged that the usual expansion process failed. After months and months of ‘expansion’- where the Dr. slowly fills an implant and stretches the skin, I was horrified one morning to see the skin torn and implant exposed. It had to be removed and I swore I would not go through another surgery.
After almost 6 months I decided to call Dr. Eric Blomain in Scranton. He said that I would need to undergo a dorsal flap procedure. Basically a muscle from the back is moved to the front along with skin from your back that replaces the radiation damaged skin. After weeks of healing, the expansion process begins. It was really difficult, but I am so happy I was able to get through it.
I tell you this because before my health scare, I had no understanding of breast cancer, let alone reconstruction. There are many people who assume that reconstruction is like getting a ‘boob job’. It is really very, very different.
There were many survivors at the Fashion Show, and it’s always good to hear how well they are doing, and see how beautiful they look. Dr. Blomain was there as an escort and told me how happy he is for me, and how great the surgery has turned out. I gave him a hug and thanked him. What else can you do or say for someone who has given you something that allows you to look into a mirror and not always see that terrible thing that happened to you?
Hats off to the wonderful women at Studio RD who unselfishly gave of their time and services making all of us pretty. Thank you to Suburban Casuals for the awesome dress, I loved it so much I bought it.