In 2013, at 40 years old, with no family history of cancer, Andreia went for her first mammogram. When her diagnosis came back as stage 0, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and then progressed to stage one six weeks later, she decided to follow an aggressive treatment. She had a bilateral mastectomy with implant reconstruction and chemotherapy. At that time, her doctor didn’t offer natural breast tissue reconstruction.
“My drive was always my children,” Andreia Dovealle said. “One was about to turn three and one hadn’t even turned one, so there was no doubt I would do whatever it took to eliminate the disease.”
After her initial surgery, during which she had expanders placed for implants, she started to have pain and other complications. For a second opinion, she went to Constance Chen, MD, at the New York Center for the Advancement of Breast Reconstruction, who told her about natural tissue breast reconstruction.
Why did you choose to have natural breast tissue reconstruction surgery?
The idea of being me, without having to worry about anything foreign in my body, it was a no brainer. I was never big on an implant idea. I did it for lack of knowing about a better option initially. Dr. Chen explained how I wouldn't have to deal with any nightmares from implants gone wrong, because they can rupture or they can leak and then you have to go in for surgery a few years later and change them. I have two small children to take care of, so I can’t be going into surgery every certain amount of years. I wanted to be done with this phase of life so I could focus my time and my energy where it matters, on my husband and my family.
If I had known Dr. Chen off the bat, maybe the whole process could have taken me eight months instead of almost two years. Dr. Chen doesn’t treat you—she restores you. I mean she really sees you as a whole person, not just a patient or another number.
How was your experience with the surgery and your recovery?
I opted to do the natural breast tissue reconstruction using fat from my abdomen and from the back of my right leg. It’s a little bit more work, the surgeries are longer, the healing is longer, but it’s definitely worth it because you’re not at risk with complications of anything going wrong like with implants. I’m very happy with the results. I honestly feel so wonderful that it’s almost like it never even happened. I have no regrets. None.
How is your life different now, after the natural breast tissue reconstruction surgery?
I’m not limited or restricted from anything I do with my kids now. Everything feels so natural and normal again.
What advice can you offer to other women who may be newly diagnosed with breast cancer?
Educate yourself. Know all your options. Go for a second opinion and a third opinion until you find that doctor who’s presenting to you something that makes sense to you and that you’re comfortable with. You have a choice and you can control what happens to you, and that’s priceless. Natural breast tissue reconstruction may be a little bit more work at first, but then you’re done. It’s worth it.