A decade after her first breast cancer diagnosis, Naneve Hawke was told she was cured. She would only have a month to revel in this good news: a mammogram soon revealed the cancer had returned, and that this time, her breast would have to be removed.
Hawke was rattled. “I just couldn’t fathom waking up with nothing there,” she says of the mastectomy. “You have this constant reminder of cancer on your chest every time you look at yourself.”
After days of online research, Hawke approached her doctor with a request for a skin-sparing mastectomy and same-day reconstruction: her cancerous tissue would be removed and a new breast mound would replace it, in one fell swoop.
Hawke says many women are unaware of their options when it comes to reconstructive breast surgery. While same-day reconstruction isn’t available to all, medical advances now make it possible for most breast cancer patients to consider some version of the procedure. Surgeon Toni Zhong says reconstruction has come a long way in the last decade. “It’s fantastic now,” she says. “Even the implants that we’re dealing with are much more natural appearing, and now we use patients’ own tissue, their own body parts to restore their breast so it’s basically as natural as possible.” Zhong stresses the procedure is about healing, not vanity. “I think it’s vital for women to feel that when they look down on their chest, that they have gotten over that cancer stage,” she says.
October 17 marks National Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day. Visit bra-day.com.