Meet Margot. She is young, vital, alive. She has a great husband and a two-year old and five-year old in tow. Margot has a successful career in retail brokerage. You would not know it to look at her, but Margot tested positive for the BRCA gene. It was disappointing news, but not terribly surprising as Margot has a family history of breast cancer; she lost a maternal aunt and maternal grandfather to the disease. Margot is an amazingly positive person. So, not surprisingly knowing Margot, she was actually empowered by the test results. She made the decision to undergo preventative bilateral mastectomy with immediate Gummy Bear implant placement and bilateral nipple sparing. Dr. Peter Turk performed the mastectomy and Dr. Peter Capizzi performed breast reconstruction. Margot’s surgery was in January of 2013. She graciously agreed to check in with us six months later and share her story with our readers.
STILLWATER: Let’s get started. First, with your surgeries behind you, tell us what three words describe the way you feel about yourself right now, today …
MARGOT: I don’t have three words exactly…. I feel good about myself and more confident. The surgery definitely freed up more time physically as well as in mind to have one less thing to worry about.
STILLWATER: You are fortunate that nipple-sparing mastectomy was an option for you. Can you tell our readers what this is and what it meant for you in the reconstruction process?
MARGOT: Yes. I got to keep my nipples thank god! I think being able to keep them gave me more of a feeling of normalcy after. It definitely still feels as though my boobs are a foreign object. I don’t have any feeling to them as of yet but I am very happy that they are there rather than a tattoo of them.
STILLWATER: Can you give us a snapshot of the timeframe?
MARGOT: I went in for Surgery on January 9th and was able to go home the next day. The doctors were able to do the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery all in one day. The first week was the worst I would say. I was allergic to the pain meds so I could only take ibuprofen. I could take a shower on my own and wash my hair myself the day after. A lot of women complain of restricted arm movement. I didn’t really have any issues with that. The next week I got one drain out then four days later the second drain. Each week that went by the pain was less and I had more movement. Once both drains were out it made life easier and less painful. I was back at work after 2.5 weeks. After two months I was able to wear a normal bra. I did a Mud Run in May with no issues. It has been roughly 6 months now. There are still some movements that cause pain (push-ups), I can’t lay flat on my stomach just yet. I am still numb to any cold feeling.
STILLWATER: Gummy Bears are all over the news. Tell us what your decision-making process was like relative to type of implant.
MARGOT: I didn’t really have a decision-making process. I knew Capizzi was the best so I trusted he knew the best implant to use.
STILLWATER: Pretend your speaking directly to another woman who’s making a decision like yours. Thinking specifically about the reconstruction process … what advice would you give her as she’s considering her options?
MARGOT: Don’t think so much about it and just do it. Surgery and 3 weeks of healing is nothing compared to a lifetime of tests, mammograms, MRI’s and always wondering if today is the day you will hear you have cancer. I would also suggest having as much help around as possible afterwards. Don’t try and do everything yourself. Just lay back and let everyone take care of you. I am bad at relinquishing control.
STILLWATER: Angelina Jolie has said that her preventative mastectomy and breast reconstruction decision in “no way diminishes my femininity.” You go, girl! Can you comment on your feelings about femininity?
MARGOT: If anything, I feel more feminine. I went from barely an A cup to a small C. Needless to say I am enjoying wearing a bathing suit this summer!
STILLWATER: Dr. Capizzi often says that a strong support network is the single most important factor facilitating a healthy reconstruction recovery. Tell us about the people who had your back.
MARGOT: All my girlfriends, my parents and most importantly my husband.
STILLWATER: We know you’re a fan of Dr. Capizzi (it’s mutual). If other plastic surgeons are reading this looking for tips, what can you tell them about your experience of Dr. Capizzi and Stillwater that made it special and positive?
MARGOT: Everyone there especially Capizzi treats you as though they have known you for years. He must have hundreds of patients but acted like and treated me like he sees me every day and has known me for years. For me it’s all about being comfortable and I was extremely comfortable. He would even give me a hug after a follow up. He is just so REAL. He knows he is the sh*t but doesn’t act like it at all!
STILLWATER: There’s a quote in a country western song that goes “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Perfect health is always going to be everyone’s #1 pick, but given that you made this empowering decision for yourself and your family, can you tell us what this experience has taught you? Has it made you a better person?
MARGOT: I think every experience makes you a better person. The more you go through the stronger you are. I have had two C-sections and a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I feel like I can do anything!
STILLWATER: You have a family history of breast cancer. You have a young daughter. Tell us what you hope for her in the future.
MARGOT: I have two young daughters. My hope is that when they turn 18 they will take the test and if they are positive do the same thing their Mother and Grandmother did. I want to protect them always and if surgery will keep them with me longer then I will push for that. However knowing my girls personality I will have to trick them into it!! They will do the opposite of what I tell them!