Meet Our Patients - Jenn
My breast reconstruction story began when I was 10 years old and my mother, at age 32 was diagnosed with breast cancer. I witnessed the grueling radiation and recovery that she went through. Luckily, she went in to remission, until, 10 years later she found another lump and was re-diagnosed at 41 with breast cancer. After a fierce year and a half battle, through chemo and radiation, she passed away. My mom was 43.
I grew up fearing breast cancer. I saw firsthand the way it transforms lives. The pain, the struggle and the loss, I knew them all too well. I had been lectured by numerous physicians regarding my risk of developing breast cancer and the importance of having genetic testing done to see if I carried the BRCA gene. Since I was 22, I had yearly mammograms and/or MRI’s for screening. It took me eight years to decide to have the BRCA test. I knew if I tested positive then I would do whatever it took to prevent having breast cancer. In November 2010 and at 28 years old, I was diagnosed BRCA-1 positive.
At first, knowing I have this gene terrified me. I was 28, happily married, no children and facing the realization that I have 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Those odds were crystal clear. I had a choice, I could wait for breast cancer to find me or I could do something to prevent it and save my life.
I quickly sprung into action after allowing myself a 24 hour period to feel sad, upset and angry. The physician who diagnosed me with the BRCA gene was not an expert in reconstruction options and quickly referred me to a breast surgeon and oncologist. I quickly found out that my reconstruction options included a DIEP Flap, which would allow me to use my own body to reconstruct my breasts. I knew if there was a possibility to have my reconstructed breasts come from my body, that that was what I wanted. My breast surgeon provided me with two plastic surgeons performing the DIEP flap, DR. Snyder in Austin and an office in San Antonio.
As an action oriented woman, I wanted to move forward with the mastectomy and reconstruction as quickly as possible. For me, being armed with the knowledge that you have “time bombs” on your chest really solidified the necessity to act preventatively. My first meeting with Dr. Snyder was in January, 2011. Dr. Snyder and I discussed my reconstructive options, including the use of implants or my own tissue. He spent over an hour with my husband and I discussing the DEIP reconstruction process, answering our questions, calming my anxiety and reassuring me that having this surgery would reduce my risk of developing breast cancer from 87% to 2%. Dr. Snyder asked me to explain what my ideal breast size and shape would be. He listened attentively and made me feel confident that he could reconstruction my new breasts the way I had described. I knew after our initial meeting, that Dr. Snyder would be my surgeon. His compassionate, knowledgeable and flexible demeanor solidified for me that
he and his team would work and partner with me throughout my reconstructive journey.
In February, 2011, I had my “big” surgery, a prophylactic double mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction. Dr. Snyder and his amazing Physician’s Assistant, Jen Caserta, preformed my DIEP procedure. The morning of surgery Dr. Snyder and Jen checked in with me and my husband and answered last minute questions and prepped me for my procedure. During my stay in the hospital, I received excellent and professional care from Dr. Snyder and his team.
In the hospital and throughout this process I received individualized and comprehensive care from the entire team. During post-op visits my questions, concerns and needs were always met. My thoughts and concerns were validated and I always knew if I needed anything I could call the office. Julie, Dr. Snyder’s medical assistant was amazing. If something didn’t look or feel right I could call. If my questions could be answered over the phone they were. If not, Julie would schedule me an appointment as quickly as possible.
Having this surgery was one of the best decisions of my life. The fact that I had the opportunity to choose this surgery was a gift and I grateful everyday to have had the choice to save my life. I know that thousands of women are not as fortunate and I encourage everyone to take the BRCA test, if and when it’s right for you. Having this information empowered me to save my life. Dr. Snyder and his team were fantastic through this process – from our first meeting, I knew that Dr. Snyder was invested in my health and deeply cared about the outcome of the reconstruction. My new, reconstructed breasts are just how we had discussed at our first meeting and I couldn’t be happier! Without a doubt, I would recommend any woman who needs breast reconstruction to Dr. Snyder and his team.