Elizabeth Anderson had no time to waste when she was told she has advanced breast cancer back in April of 2009. Just a month after receiving her diagnosis, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, a surgery in which both of her breasts were removed. “With a stage three diagnosis, it was either my breasts or my life. There was no decision to be made. I had to take them off.” Recalls the 47 year old fitness instructor from Florida.
When the surgery was over, Anderson said, she had to prepare herself mentally before standing in front of the mirror and looking at herself for the first time. She was aware it wouldn’t be easy. “I just stared at myself in the mirror for a few minutes saying, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK. This is what you had to do.” said Anderson, who also underwent chemo and radiation during the run of her treatment. While she states she was absolutely elated to be cancer free, her new body was a hard pill to swallow and not at all easy to adjust to.
She basically resigned herself to not having breasts for the rest of her life. She was told she was not a good candidate for breast implants which are not commonly recommended for women who have had radiation treatment. Rather, she was given breast prostheses to wear but found them to be
burdensome. In addition, there was the mental frustration to deal with.
A miracle occurred for Anderson during a chance visit to another radiologist near the tail end of her treatment. Anderson was told about a surgery called “bilateral delayed breast reconstruction” in which fatty tissues are taken from other parts of the body and used to construct new breasts. Anderson said that no one else, none of her other doctors had told her about this alternative. In fact, she said that none of the other women who had been survivors even knew what the procedure was.