How Tissue Donation Impacts Experiences with Double Mastectomy and Reconstruction
Posted October 30, 2023 by Guest Poster - 2 comments
This post was initially published at donoralliance.org as part of their campaign to help educate the public about tissue donation and how it can help women like me get back to living a life of grit and grace.
Understanding Double Mastectomy: Procedure and Recovery Process
A double mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of both breasts, often as a preventive measure in cases of genetic predisposition to breast cancer. This intricate process consists of several crucial steps, with a unique twist in some cases: the inclusion of donated tissue from someone who passed away. Donated tissue, such as fat grafts or skin flaps from the patient’s own body or tissue from a donor, plays a vital role in the reconstruction process, ensuring a more natural, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing result. Beyond the surgery itself, one of the most common concerns is the recovery time. While recovery can vary from person to person, incorporating donated tissue can potentially expedite the healing process by promoting blood flow and tissue regeneration, ultimately helping patients on their journey toward physical and emotional recovery.
Seven years ago, Cathy Holman received a preventative double mastectomy, including reconstructive surgery. Both her mother and sister had developed breast cancer, so due to her hereditary risk, Cathy decided this was the best option for facing what was likely the inevitable. The journey, both physically and emotionally, was a long experience. One thing many people don’t consider when getting a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery is the fact that they will likely be utilizing donated tissue from a tissue donor during the reconstruction. This is just one of the many ways registering as an organ, eye, and tissue donor can significantly impact lives in ways not frequently thought about. For those considering a double mastectomy, whether as a preventative measure or after facing breast cancer head-on, Cathy’s story is sure to help you through the process.
You can learn more about Cathy’s journey here.
Coping with the Emotional and Physical Aspects of Double Mastectomy
One of the things that helped Cathy prepare for the double mastectomy was having a surgeon who was willing to present her with all the potential options. Initially, Cathy wanted to use her own tissue to support her reconstruction, but unfortunately, she did not have enough excess tissue. This ultimately led to a discussion about donated tissue as an option. Of course, the idea of donated tissue can be emotionally challenging. However, realizing the donated tissue comes from someone who was generous both during life and after death, and who wanted their gifts to be used to help people, is representative of their lasting impact. Donated tissue allows for a more natural-looking reconstruction and provides more support, making it a stronger alternative that allows patients to return to their favorite activities even more quickly. Cathy explained how she was able to play, hold her kids, and enjoy life because of her generous tissue donor. Amazingly, just one tissue donor can help up to 10 patients undergoing breast reconstruction.
Healthy Habits That Help during a Double Mastectomy Recovery Process
Cathy’s recovery following her double mastectomy and reconstruction was no easy task; thankfully, the donated tissue helped make it easier. Many people don’t realize that a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery is not a one-time procedure. It requires multiple surgeries over the course of a few months to a year. Being active, eating healthy, and ensuring enough recovery time allows for a strong and healthy recovery from a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Ultimately, donated tissue helps immensely with this process by allowing the recipient to become active more quickly and ease back into their normal life.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Ways to Get Involved
By registering to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor, you have the potential to help someone in need of breast reconstruction. Show your support for all the members of our community in Colorado and Wyoming who are fighting against this aggressive disease by signing up as a donor. You can also register as a way to honor the special women in your life. Registering is easy! Simply say “Yes” the next time you renew your driver’s license or state ID, or sign up online at any time through DonateLifeColorado.org or DonateLifeWyoming.org.
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