I took Laura Pike It takes a long time for her to learn to accept her body after her stage 2 diagnosis Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) breast cancer in 2019 — a process that continued long after her treatment ended.
Cancer was discovered in only one of Pike’s breasts. But soon after she was diagnosed, she was hit Genetic testing I did and learned it BRCA2 positivewhich means that it carries a Hereditary genetic mutation that increase her risk of developing breast and certain other types of cancer. Because this puts her at risk of developing cancer in her last breast, double mastectomy was the best option. The plan then was to reconstruct her breasts with implants at a later date.
“I really wanted a surgical outcome that looked more like the body that had lived with me until now. I couldn’t imagine myself without breast implants. The surgeon said implants were the way I would achieve that,” says Pike.
But the reconstruction was more complicated than I expected. Pike has had multiple breast surgeries, and each time she has had to adjust to a new body.
In December 2019, Pike had a mastectomy with Tissue expanders It was eventually replaced with silicone implants in September 2020. But two months later, in November 2020, the implant on her right side—the breast that had cancer and had received radiation—had to be removed due to infection. The following month this implant was replaced.
At the start of 2022, BAIC secured its fifth pole position Breast surgery – A common revision procedure in which fat is suctioned from her abdomen and grafted into her reconstructed breasts to fill in the visible rippling from her implants.
“I had just gone shopping for a new wardrobe, and the fat injection was supposed to be my last surgery,” says Pike. “I was so excited about it [be done]. “
But things did not go as planned.
Again, Pike developed a postoperative infection in the breast that was irradiated during cancer treatment (the infection rate for implant reconstruction is Higher when breast tissue is irradiated). As a result, that implant had to be removed in another procedure, leaving her breasts asymmetrical.
Bayek is currently trying to figure out what’s next. She decides between DIEP flap reconstructionin which the breasts are reconstructed with tissue from the abdomen, or Aesthetic flat closureWhere the breast is not reconstructed at all. But now Bayek faces another hurdle: getting approved for insurance.
Only plastic surgeons who have a certain experience in Microsurgery Techs are highly skilled in DIEP flap procedures, known to exist Better results and reduced risk of infection on irradiated breast tissue rather than implant reconstruction. But to date, Pike’s health insurance company has not agreed to consult a qualified microsurgeon. She is now in the appeals process and awaiting a decision.
“I’m still considering getting an aesthetic flat closure, but I’m waiting to make the decision until after getting approval and consulting with a skilled DIEP surgeon,” says Pike. “I want to know all of my options and make an informed decision that is right for me.”
Dealing with clothing and body image
Meanwhile, Pike says the side of her breast where the implant was removed is not as flat, as it is with a flat aesthetic closure. Instead, there is excess skin with a lumpy appearance. “I tend to wear tops a little higher, so when I bend over you can’t see through [my chest]”, she says.
She also deals with asymmetry by wearing a breast prosthesis on the side without implants for special occasions, when she wants to avoid unwanted attention. But as for her usual, everyday life — whether she’s running errands or hanging out with friends — she’s a no-brainer.
“Getting to grips with how my wardrobe fit into my current body was a challenge,” says Pike.
Dating and intimacy
Bayek is single, and one of her biggest struggles has been worrying about how intimate partners will perceive her body. But the advice she received at a breast cancer support group helped her face that fear: “[A support group member] He said, ‘Just start wearing Very attractive bra“,” she remembers. Then set boundaries [to not] Take it off until you’re ready. “
Pike remembers being nervous when she was about to be intimate with a new partner after treatment. “I still have radiation burns and expanders in my chest,” she says. “I was like, ‘I have to tell you something before I take the clothes off!'” I have breast cancer and my chest is really weird.
“And he said, ‘I don’t care what your chest looks like…don’t ever let that stop you,’” Pike continues. “I think somewhere in my head I already knew that, but having an intimate partner tells me this was an extraordinary moment for my self-esteem.”
There are still challenges. “I don’t know anyone passing by [cancer] Without some times of despair and deep sadness. Even people who look like they’re doing well have really sad moments,” she says. “It’s okay to just sit there and be sad.”
Making meaning and finding community
In 2021, Pike’s sister, who is also BRCA2-Positive, he was also diagnosed with breast cancer. The sisters were talking about how hard it was to find pictures of mastectomy results online. This led to Bayek creating Enabled mastectomyA website where people who have had a mastectomy can submit photos of their surgery results, and people who plan to have a mastectomy can search a gallery of results, categorized by type of procedure – such as implant reconstruction, flat aesthetic closure, and Flap reconstructionAnd Prophylactic or prophylactic mastectomyAnd Male breast cancer.
In addition to helping others through her website, Pike has discovered another unexpected positive: connecting online, primarily through social media, with others who have struggled with body image, whether it be as a result of a cancer diagnosis, illness or Another situation, or some kind of accident.
“Everyone gets together and talks about it — I find so much joy in that,” she says.