Welcome to the WBCC blog. The WBCC has been fighting against breast cancer for 23 years. Our supporters are survivors, family members, health care workers, environmental advocates and others touched by this disease. In other words, we are you.

We’ll be engaging our community moving forward with a monthly blog that will give you a sense of the breadth of interests and concerns among our volunteers. Our contributors will be staff, board members, committee members, and others with an interesting take on issues of relevance to you. Let us know if there is a topic of interest to you. We’ll find an expert to address it.

 

Living without Reconstruction

By Laura Callen, WBCC Board Director

Living without reconstruction; it is an option.

When I was laying on the MRI machine listening to the loud clicking noise, in my mind I knew it — cancer again.  I had just turned 39.  I had DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ] 11 years earlier, and my younger sister, Lesa, had died at age 37 from triple negative breast cancer only nine months earlier.  It was right there in that MRI machine that I decided to have a double mastectomy.  Clearly, my breasts had an agenda of their own, one I could not control. 

I clearly remember my doctor telling me I would need to have a biopsy after the MRI revealed a suspicious area.  During the biopsy, my nurse practitioner came to check on me, and as she was leaving, I yelled to her: “I know this is cancer.  I want a double mastectomy.”  There was no discussion.

Of course, the biopsy came back positive.  I was scheduled for surgery six weeks later (talk about a LONG six weeks).  I decided to visit a plastic surgeon to discuss my options for possible reconstruction.  When I found out that because of previous radiation I would not be eligible for implants, I began to think, “Do I really need breasts?”  The only other option I had was for a tram flat reconstruction.  The thought of a flat tummy was appealing, but I needed to look further into this option.  When I found out exactly what went into this procedure, and the number of hours I would be on an operating table, and the time needed to recover, I had second thoughts. I have two small children.

I had many conversations with my husband about what it would be like to be with a woman with no breasts.  He was more concerned with me still being here.  He had no problem.  That was that.  I opted for no reconstruction.  Luckily, I was connected to some very awesome mentors through ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis), one who had opted for no reconstruction and one with small children (with reconstruction) who helped me solidify my decision.

After my surgery and the healing began, I will admit there were days that I questioned my choice.  What wasn’t shared with me or told to me was that I would need to mourn the loss of my breasts, mourn the loss of who I was as a woman before cancer, and now I needed to try to accept this breast-less woman.  At first, I couldn’t wait to get my prosthetics.  I remember standing in the “shop” looking at bras and feeling hopeful because they looked “normal.”  When I wore my breasts for the first time, I cried.  It brought me back to a time before cancer, but somehow it just didn’t feel the same.  The prosthetics covered by my insurance were heavy and very uncomfortable to wear.  I spent the following year wearing them to work but going “flat” on the weekends.  And wouldn’t you know it, flat began to feel like the new normal, the new and improved me.

Soon I began to start to accept and feel comfortable in my new body.  I won’t lie and tell you that I don’t have days where I question my decision, days when nothing in my closet will  work because clothes are built for women with boobs. I cried a bit when I realized my favorite strapless dresses wouldn’t work for me any longer.  And those days where I feel people staring at me (sometimes I wonder if it is just me or are they really looking?), I hold my head high, because I know how lucky I am to have survived.  It is worth a few stares now and then.  I have since completely stopped wearing my prosthetics.  I am now flat and fabulous everyday.

If you are a young woman wondering if you want to have reconstruction please remember you have the option to not reconstruct.  It just might change your life.

 

Protecting ACA Is a Key 2017 Priority

Hayley Young, Capitol Advocate

Hello,

My name is Hayley Young and I am the Capitol Advocate for the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition (WBCC). In this blog, I’ll be doing regular updates about policies that impact breast cancer community issues that we’ve selected as our national and state priorities.

One of our most pressing policy issues is ensuring access to health care. That’s why the Protection of the Affordable Care Act is a key issue in our 2017 Policy Priorities.

Lawmakers need to remember that access to preventative healthcare isn’t just about cost, it’s a life and death decision. For people who are facing cancer, are cancer survivors, or one of the other millions of Americans who were insured for the first time, the Affordable Care Act gave access to life saving prevention and treatment.

Protection of the ACA isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a commonsense issue. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act without a viable replacement. Those average Americans are joined by hospitals, healthcare providers, and industry professionals who know repeal could be disastrous.

Before the ACA, cancer patients and survivors were left in the lurch, because insurers were allowed to reject people with pre-existing health conditions. A pre-existing condition often meant choosing between exorbitant premiums or no coverage at all. If the ACA is repealed, nearly 1 in 4 adults could be denied access to healthcare coverage for this reason.

Another important provision under the ACA is allowing young people up to age 26 to be covered by their parents’ insurance. In Wisconsin, 40,000 young people were able to be covered in this way. An estimated 224,000 people in the state who are covered directly by the Healthcare.gov Marketplace will have their health care disrupted with a repeal.

For people who would be impacted by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, now is this time to stand up and speak out in support. Go to www.wibreastcancer.org/legislation/find-my-representative/ to find your federal representatives, and contact that to express your support of the Affordable Care Act.

I’ve only been with WBCC since June, and have so enjoyed getting to work for an organization that focuses both on education and meaningful policy change. Our focus on collaborative change means we are connected with partners throughout Wisconsin working on local, state and federal issues. As we expand our advocacy and education efforts throughout Wisconsin, we want your help. Learn more about our volunteer efforts here.

Until next time,

Hayley