I am a 44-year-old breast cancer previvor and mother of two teenagers and a rescue doggo. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for nearly 23 years. I work as a certified health coach with a focus on helping others transform their lives through habit shifts and long-term lifestyle activation.
How did you find your surgeon? What were the specific reasons you chose him or her over other providers?
Dr. Wei was recommended by a genetic counselor. I consulted with multiple surgeons in the Seattle area and ultimately chose Dr. Wei because she truly listened to and understood what I was trying to accomplish for my overall health. She suggested options that allowed me to choose the best possible approach and she always made me feel welcome, never rushed, in her clinic during each visit.
What type of procedure did you have and why did you decide to have this procedure?
I found my first breast lump in 1996, the same day my mom found her own at the age of 40. While mine ended up being benign fatty tissue, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and would go on to have a mastectomy and reconstruction. Fortunately, she has been in complete remission ever since. My breast issues continued over the next 20 years which resulted in constant imaging, biopsies, surgeries, and worry as I waited for what seemed like would be my own inevitable breast cancer diagnosis. In 2019, I decided to have genetic testing done which confirmed I was extremely high risk for developing breast cancer, confirming my fears. At that time I realized I could actually take control of my health; I didn’t have to just sit back worrying and waiting for cancer to eventually come and get me. Inspired by my mom’s story, I began the search for a special team that could help me stop the cycle and I was lucky to find Dr. Wei. Once I understood from her what would need to be done, the decision to move forward with the surgery was easy. I knew going through the process would be challenging but I was confident it would help enable me to continue living my best life without fear.
Describe your surgical experience and recovery.
The path I chose required multiple surgeries. At the time of my first procedure, I was at my healthiest physical, mental, and medical point after spending the year prior creating an entirely new lifestyle. Thanks to the detailed guidance from Dr. Wei and her team, I knew exactly what to expect every step of the way. I received consistent care throughout my recovery and healing happened as expected, over time.
What were your fears about having this procedure and how did your surgeon help you overcome them?
After having had so many procedures done over the past 20 years, I was honestly more relieved than afraid to have this surgery done! My biggest concern was making sure that I thoroughly understood the reconstruction choices so that I could confidently pick the one that would best fit my lifestyle and long-term care goals. But once I made the decision, the rest all fell into place.
Describe why you are happy you chose this procedure. How has it positively impacted your life? Your self-esteem?
I love waking up each day now in gratitude and not in fear! I am thankful I am able to be a role model for my daughter, my sisters, and anyone else who is facing a decision of this magnitude. The impact of knowing I could be in complete control of my health has allowed me to live as my full authentic self. I am unapologetic about my choices and I am happy to be a part of a wonderful community of previvors that help each other through these challenges in our lives.
Having a DIEP Flap breast reconstruction using my own tummy tissue has been such a blessing for my overall physical body! My tissue-based breasts fit my active lifestyle and feel just like they did before I had reconstruction done. I live in gratitude that using my tummy tissue to rebuild came with the added benefit of getting to remove all the excess skin I had accumulated during a lifetime of weight gain/loss after carrying 2 full-term, amazing babies. I walk a little taller now, wear my clothes in full confidence, and I appreciate fully how truly amazing our physical selves are! I continue to be focused on making choices that support my recovery because I know I have a full life ahead. I’m just getting started!
Tell us specifically about why you are happy you chose the surgeon you did? Describe his/her most outstanding qualities.
I’m so happy I chose Dr. Wei. She is one of the most knowledgeable, confident, and caring surgeons I have ever worked with. She was committed to getting to know me first so that she could truly help me with this massive decision. I appreciate her surgical artistry, her commitment to listening without judgment, and her willingness to help me with the next steps in my care.
How did our staff support you in your surgical experience?
The entire Polyclinic Plastic Surgery staff was super knowledgeable, always friendly and welcoming, and never once made me feel silly for asking a million questions. They always greeted me by name, confirmed I had what I needed, and thought ahead for me, anticipating the support I would need next. I Love them ALL and want to thank them for being a part of my journey.
Do you have any advice for others who may be considering this procedure?
My advice is to always go with your gut, ask all of your questions, and always remember you are in control of your health, no matter what choices you make. I would suggest consulting with at least 2 surgical teams with different backgrounds, skills, and approaches. Surround yourself with others who have actually walked in your shoes. Remember those people may not be family or close friends who may mean well but may not understand the full scope and weight of this journey. Lastly, know that recovery will be more challenging if you haven’t prioritized your total wellbeing. If your surgeon advises losing weight, shifting meds, hiring a therapist, etc, do it! Listen to the advice of the experts, it will only serve you in recovery.