This is the last in my Breast Reconstruction Thoughts series (at least for now). I continue to be thankful for the willingness of these women to share their stories. Heather Lau and I both graduated from West Hancock High School in Britt, Iowa. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 35 years old and made it through treatment and reconstruction while raising young kids. Here are some of her thoughts.
Name: Heather Lau
Family: Husband – Dan, Son – Camden (15), Daughter – Kenadie (14), Daughter – Macie (9)
Occupation: Office assistant at an insurance agency
Hobbies/Interests: Going to all my kids’ activities and spending time as a family.
Diagnosis: Triple Negative Breast Cancer – Stage 1
Age at Time of Diagnosis: 35
Type of Reconstruction: Implant Reconstruction
What was your initial response to your cancer diagnosis?
Complete shock! I didn’t think people my age got breast cancer. I was only 35 and my kids were young (4, 9 and 10.) I just kept thinking this happens to other people, but not me.
How much time passed from your mastectomy through the completion of reconstruction?
I had the mastectomy, then chemo, and then reconstruction. So from mastectomy to reconstruction completion it was about 11 months
What was something you found surprising or unexpected about the reconstruction process?
I was very surprised at how much better I felt about myself after I was done with the whole process. I kept telling everyone that I didn’t really care about having breasts again, but it turns out I did! It just made me feel normal again.
What was the hardest part of he process?
It was definitely physically hard for me. I got expanders put in two months after chemo, and my body was still recovering from that. I thought the drainage tubes were awful. I had to have them in for almost three weeks, and they were painful and made sleeping impossible. I would say the first month after getting the expanders in was the hardest for me
(Wonder what the expansion process is like? Breast Reconstruction – Expansion)
What is something you learned about yourself through your mastectomy/reconstruction experience?
There’s a saying, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” I always thought of myself as weak, but going through this I found out that I am strong.
Do you have a piece of advice for women who are just beginning this journey?
I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had reconstruction, and everyone had different experiences. It really helped me to talk to other women who went through it. Do what you are comfortable with. Stay positive, and lean on your friends for support.