Patient Lucienne Colombo and PEP Director Mollie Sugarman talk about decisions to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Dr. Ron Israeli talks about how many patients do not want to undergo a mastectomy, and favor breast preservation. In recent years, there have been significant developments in breast reconstruction that allows women to maintain a positive body image, and move on hopefully with their lives.
Dr. Ron Israeli: The father of modern plastic surgery said, “We restore and repair and make whole that which nature has given but fortune has taken away.”
Lucienne Colombo: We're line three to the main and we have permission west. Thank you so much. Long Island Train 461 out.
It just was a bad but good dream. I had qualified to be a conductor at the Long Island Railroad. I bought a house. I was ready to really push forward and have a life, to meet somebody who knew. Everything was going to be good. And then they said, “You have breast cancer,” like, “Oh, my God.”
Mollie Sugarman: The terror of being diagnosed and not knowing where to start, not knowing the language. Where do I go? Who do I see first?
Dr. Ron Israeli: Now, all of a sudden, they have to make decisions, important decisions, real decisions, under fire. There's a sense of urgency, and there’s a fear.
Lucienne Colombo: I was petrified. I thought it was all about karma. What did I do wrong? I just really was angry. Yeah, anger.
Mollie Sugarman: As traumatic as it is to hear the diagnosis of breast cancer, sometimes the greater impact is the idea of losing one's breasts.
Dr. Ron Israeli: I've seen women who don't want to be treated because they don't want to lose their breasts. Their concern for their breasts and their preservation of their breasts is greater than their concern for life itself.
Lucienne Colombo: Your mind goes through so many ups and downs. One minute you can laugh and the next minute you're in the fetal position on the couch in the dark with a blanket over your head going, “Why me?” Then gradually, you just give in. You pick yourself up and you go through it and you do it because you have to, because people love you.
Dr. Ron Israeli: The incidence of breast cancer in a woman's lifetime is 1 in 9. Whether it's your mother, or your sister, or your friend, or your friend's mother, everybody knows somebody who's been affected by breast cancer.
Mollie Sugarman: Many years ago, there was no reconstruction available. Women were really massacred. To have available, all of the kinds of reconstructions that exist now allows women to move on and gives them a sense of hope.
Lucienne Colombo: When I look at my body now, I don't even see the scars. Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. It makes you realize how strong you are and that you can do anything, but even when you're done you're still like apprehensive.
Dr. Ron Israeli: It's very important to consider the patient as a whole, not only physically, not only in their body, but in their mind. Creating a lifecast just brings it all together. They can see it, they can feel it. They're able to show others, “You're going to be okay.”
Mollie Sugarman: To offer these women the opportunity to see themselves reconstructed and as they truly exist is a special gift. For Lucienne, I think it really helped to get as close to closure as you could possibly get.
Lucienne Colombo: It was the end. It was like putting it to sleep. When they were peeling it off me, it was like, “Whew, I'm free! I'm free!” I was free in so many different ways. It was time to live.
Lucienne Colombo: I love you. I love you, love, big love, the biggest love. Oh, I know which one's me already! Wow, can I touch that?
Woman: Are we allowed to touch?
Dr. Ron Israeli: Of course.
Lucienne Colombo: Well, that's cool. How are you? Oh, you went down to the water. Somebody followed me. My next door neighbour . . .