Choose Hope, Not Fear - The Women Fighting Breast Cancer

I honor women who are leading the fight against breast cancer, & helping women regain their self-confidence. 1 in 8 (12%) women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2016, it is estimated that ~250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in this country. Here are some quotes from those fighting those statistics...

ON MOTIVATION, RESEARCH, & ALTRUISM:
“My mother's struggle with breast cancer and lack of access to specialty care drove me into the field. I would advocate for female surgeons to participate in research. Contributing to scientific discovery and shaping the field has been one of the most meaningful experiences I have had to date. I have worked on pre-clinical trials to test preventive medications in animal models, qualitative projects to determine the barriers to acceptance of preventive medications for breast cancer, and human clinical trials for breast cancer prevention. Something that always motivates me to keep going is hearing the stories of the healthy women who are donating their time to participate in prevention trials, and in some cases, willing to undergo invasive procedures all for the simple act of helping to fight breast cancer in honor of a loved one with the disease. They make such a meaningful and selfless contribution to help others without any direct benefit gained for themselves. This captures the altruistic spirit of medicine and inspires me to continue this work and to encourage others to enter this field.”

– Lindsey Cameron, MD, MPH, Surgical Resident, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow


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ON VULNERABILITY & THE POWER OF ATTITUDE:
"I chose surgery because it gives you such a unique opportunity to care for people at such a vulnerable time in their lives. It is a privilege to be able to see my patients through their breast cancer battle. The best part for me is not only removing their cancer, but doing everything I can to make them look and feel good as a result. My patients have inspired me to not only want to help women battle their disease on their terms, but to also remember the power of a positive attitude."

– Debb Farr, MD, Breast Surgical Oncologist


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ON UNDERSTANDING A WOMAN’S FIGHT:
"I truly love being a breast surgeon. Being a woman offers me a profound understanding of my patients with breast cancer, in that I can acknowledge the significance that the cancer is in their breast, a symbol of their femininity and femaleness. I am allowed extraordinary insight into their experience of being treated for a cancer that is, by its very nature, de-feminizing."

– Niamey Pender Wilson, MD, MSHP, Breast Surgeon


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ON FINDING INSPIRATION IN HER PATIENTS’ FIGHTS TO HELP HER THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES:
"I am always amazed at no matter how chaotic my personal life was that once the blue gowns and gloves went on and the O.R. door shut, everything else in the world, including time, stopped. Nothing else mattered or existed - just me, the patient and the tumor that wouldn't live to see another day. The OR became my sanctuary. And though at times stressful in and of itself, it is what kept my mind sane and my path clear even when I wasn’t sure what the future might be. Now that I am in a very happy place in my life, I am FOREVER GRATEFUL to the operating room and all the patients I had the privilege to treat. They saved my life just as much as the surgery I performed saved theirs."

– Jennifer Ann Montes, MD, MPH, Breast Surgeon


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ON TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITY & ALLEVIATING DOUBT:
“With breast reconstruction, there are so, so many women who are afraid to articulate they want their breasts to look good (or even ‘OK’) because they subconsciously think they will be punished with recurrence if they dare to be ‘vain’ about their appearance. They are so grateful they get to transfer that responsibility to me, and I love un-burdening them of those thoughts!”

– Alyson Buckner Wells, MD, FACS, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon


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ON KNOWING ‘YOUR RIGHTS’:
"Breast cancer does not just mean chopping off your breasts and losing your femininity. Breast cancer reconstruction can restore a beautiful, curvy, feminine appearance to your body and breasts. Technology has improved tremendously in recent years, and the results are better than ever. The US Government passed the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) to MANDATE that insurance companies cover the cost of reconstructing a woman's breasts after a cancer diagnosis. This is not considered a frivolous luxury-- it is an essential part of your health care and treatment."

– Lara Devgan, MD, MPH, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon


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ON EMPOWERMENT & 'MOVING FORWARD':
"My patients are empowered to move forward after cancer surgery, to feel whole again, live life to the fullest and be proud of their breast reconstruction."

- Karen Horton, MD, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon


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ON THE PREVALENCE & ‘THE PRIVILEGE’:
“With breast cancer being so widespread, it has personally touched most of us in the United States. Women in the U.S. have a 1:8 time risk of being diagnosed with the disease—these are our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, cousins, and friends...It brought tears to my eyes to know that I meant that much to her in her journey—to include me in a very personal family photo. It was a great reminder of why we do what we do as plastic surgeons.”

– Kristi Martinez-Hustak, MD, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon


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ON THE ‘PRICELESS’ POWER OF RECONSTRUCTION:
“Every week we have a day where we perform breast reconstruction surgery on breast cancer survivors. You strive to perform to your best ability each case and get to enjoy the results immediately. The idea that you can 'reconstruct' someone's life in a positive way is priceless. You use your hands to re-create something, it becomes an art. I love that i get to work with an amazing surgeon who really is an artist.”

– Jessie Wheeley, PA-C, MS, First-Assist, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

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“We see many strong, courageous women that are still undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. One of the biggest blessings of my job, specifically is working with this patient population. Most of these women have to fight for their lives, lose their breasts, hair, femininity... And I get to work for an exceptional team of plastic surgeons to help put them back together, and do everything we can, to restore their shape, contour, and confidence. We want our cancer patients to be able to walk out of the shower and see themselves in the mirror and not have to be reminded of their diagnosis.”

– Mychael Patrick-Lenehan PA-C, MS, First-Assist, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery


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ON INSPIRATION FOUND IN PERSONAL TRAGEDY:
“My mom was the perfect balance who constantly reminded us that everyone has their own special talents - she was truly our biggest cheerleader. The move to Texas occurred after my mother's breast cancer was found to have metastasized to her spine and CSF - she was only 36. It was the relationship that her oncologist developed with me and my brothers that really influenced my decision to go in to medicine. I had become detached and uninvolved, and she made every effort to not only treat my mother, but to CONNECT with me and the rest of our family to help guide us through, and SALVAGE AS MANY MEMORIES AS POSSIBLE as my mother lost her battle at the age of 38.”

– Megan Scott, MD, Ophthamology Resident