Surgery Tips from Model and Stage Ambassador, Fleure Presner

Model, Stage Ambassador and Breast Cancer Survivor

One in eight women will be affected by breast cancer at some point in their lives. I was 35 years old when I faced my diagnosis. After learning my fate, I researched as much as I could, got a second opinion, and asked questions to my doctor. 

Having Stage as a resource and a trusted place to turn is something every woman needs as she tries to make sense of her diagnosis.

Please come with me as I continue to explore my journey. My goal is to live a healthy life, free of cancer, and to help other women along the way. 

Surgery Tip 1: Ask About Your Options

One thing I learned as I prepared to have surgery was that I was a good candidate for a “skin-sparing mastectomy.” [Skin is preserved for immediate reconstruction, which usually involves spacers used to stretch the skin.] What I didn’t know is that this procedure does not protect the nerves and sensations…

Surgery Tip 2: Consider Your Fertility 

If your fertility is a high priority, ask your doctor how you may preserve it. Even if you don’t need to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or take Tamoxifen, you should still discuss this with your doctor. You’ll have a lot of decisions to make. 

Following up with health insurance regarding fertility and qualifying for plastic surgery is another important step. You need all the necessary information from your insurance as you make these decisions. Genetic testing is another option you may also want to discuss with your insurance company.

Surgery Tip 3: Prepare Your Support System…and Yourself

I prepared for surgery by telling my friends and family about what I was going through in order to garner their support. For me, a strong support network was invaluable to my mental health. I tried to keep upbeat and maintain a healthy mindset as much as I could. I did quite a few things to help myself feel better: 

  • I used acupuncture and cupping to relieve tension. 
  • I drank gut-healthy probiotics and took Chinese herbs to help get a restful night's sleep. 
  • During my acupuncture sessions, I participated in talk therapy [counseling/psychotherapy]. This helped me use logical and helpful advice for coping with some of my day-to-day issues. 
  • I watched YouTube, wanting to identify with other women going through similar circumstances. 
  • I found myself eager to receive information from wherever I could. I found new friends in my neighbors, some of whom even shared their own breast cancer survival stories, which I deeply appreciated. 
  • I changed my diet to a more plant-based one, looking for organic fruits, veggies and meats (sparingly), and only if they were free-range and antibiotic-free. 
  • When I felt up to it, I exercised, always keeping in mind that I planned to get back to work modeling as soon as I was able to.

Know that after surgery you may have a tough time processing what just happened to you. That first night, when I got home, I had a severe panic attack, and my family had to call 911. I looked at myself with expanders in my chest, the drains hanging, and it was too much.

The hospital sent me home with pain medication and medicine to relieve muscle spasms. I found that when I was feeling irritable, it was the pain signaling to me, so pain medication helped. The drains did their job and needed to be emptied by a nurse in my home the first day after surgery. After that, my husband was able to help with that.

Surgery Tip 4: Take Care Of Your Skin

Honestly, it took a while for me to start feeling better. I maintained my skin by applying a rich skin oil throughout the day. It made my skin feel soft, comfortable, and hydrated. I used scar gel on my most pronounced scars. 

Sometimes wounds can develop keloids [a thick, raised scar] from over-healing. If that happens, a plastic surgeon can help fix it. 

Surgery Tip 5: Prepare a Supply Bag

I always toted around a clear supply bag in my handbag so that I didn't have to go searching for my essentials when I needed them. I kept a hand lotion, a nail file, tissues, my glasses, and lip balm in there. 

I was exhausted and I looked gray, so these little things helped… as did reminding myself that I was healing and I needed to be kind to myself. 

Surgery Tip 6: Give Yourself Time

You may find it difficult to read and write people back because of the side effects of the medications you are prescribed, and from the general fatigue, so try to let that go, and you'll respond when you can.  

People aren't expecting you to do anything but get better. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to heal…

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