Welcome to Breast Reconstruction Thoughts at Life Reconstructed. Each Tuesday this fall, I am featuring a woman who has undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most have also had breast reconstruction, but some have not. Some entered this world through cancer, others due to testing positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation which highly increases their chances of a future cancer diagnosis. I hope their words bring insight and encouragement.
Rachel was one of my closest college friends, and we’ve stayed friends for 20+ years. When I met her, her mom was dying of breast cancer. She later found that she had a very high likelihood of getting cancer as well. I remember when she went through her bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. It seemed so foreign and scary to me. Little did I know then, that about 4 years later, she would be my mentor as I went through the same process. But God knew, and I’m so thankful for the gift she is in my life.
Name – Rachel Akslen
Family – Husband Eric & 4 kids – Clara – 14, Jairus – 11, Ellie & Kaylee – 9
Occupation – Busy mom & part-time accountant
Hobbies/Interests – watching movies, reading, baking, watching kids play soccer
Diagnosis – BRCA2 positive, prophylactic bilateral mastectomy & oophorectomy
Age at Time of Diagnosis – 35
Type of Reconstruction – expanders & silicone implants
What was your initial response to your cancer diagnosis or to finding out you had the brca1 or brca2 gene?
I actually felt a lot of relief to finally just know & to have the ability to do something about it instead of just feeling like ticking time bomb. There were also a lot of tears mostly when thinking about my kids & knowing that there is a 50% chance I have passed this on to each of them.
How much time passed from your mastectomy/bilateral mastectomy through completion of reconstruction?
About 5 months
What was something you found surprising or unexpected about the reconstruction process?
I didn’t realize how much you use your chest muscles & that pretty much every movement would hurt. I also didn’t expect to have so much trouble sleeping & for so long.
What was the hardest part of the process?
I think the hardest part for me was the sleep deprivation. I have learned that I am a much different person when I’m so over tired. I’m not very patient with the kids & am just crabby. It also made it easier to feel sorry for myself & question my decision.
Do you have a piece of advice for women who are just beginning this journey?
Find someone else who has been down a similar road to talk to & ask very frank questions to.