Sutter Cancer Centers
Kristen - Beating Breast Cancer with Her Team of Specialists
Kristen thought her battle with breast cancer was over. After her initial diagnosis, she had a lumpectomy and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. When an MRI scan showed another tumor in her other breast a few years later, Kristen decided this time to fight harder and stronger.
“I did not want to live in fear of breast cancer for the rest of my life,” says Kristen. “Even though this second tumor was detected early and was tiny enough for another lumpectomy, I decided to talk to my doctor about ending this battle once and for all. I asked for a double mastectomy.”
Kristen, a passionate proponent of self exams for breast health, felt strongly about taking her fate into her own hands. “I was the one who detected my first breast tumor,” she says. “I was only 39, and wasn’t scheduled for a mammogram for another year. It scares me to think about what could have happened had I not been an advocate of my own health. My decision to have a bilateral mastectomy, after the second tumor was detected, was another proactive choice I made on behalf of my body.”
Kristen’s oncologist, Dr. Kristie Bobolis with Sutter Cancer Center in Roseville, was supportive of Kristen’s decision and referred her to Dr. Lisa Guirguis, a breast cancer surgeon at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. “Dr. Guirguis was wonderful,” says Kristen. “She described her approach to a mastectomy and explained her role and the role of the plastic surgeon who would do the reconstructive procedures.” Kristen’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Alan Lim, specializes in breast reconstruction and often works with Dr. Guirguis. “It was reassuring to know I was in the hands of specialists who worked well together,” Kristen says.
“My first impression of my plastic surgeon, Dr. Lim, was that of an artist, someone extremely qualified and passionate about his work,” Kristen says. “As I got to know him better, I realized he was also a caring doctor who works with his patients, not just on them.”
Kristen’s surgery date was scheduled within a month of her referral. “I didn’t have much time to prepare for my operation, but that was OK,” she says. “I dealt with a lot of the emotions and fears during my first bout with breast cancer. This time, I was ready to do what I had to do to put an end to it.”
In November of 2007, Dr. Guirguis performed a bilateral mastectomy on Kristen. The surgery went well, free from complications. “I was only in the hospital for one night,” Kristen says. “The anesthesia made me pretty sick, but that was the worst of it. I was feeling better by the next night.”
Based on Kristen’s preferences, she and Dr. Lim opted for a reconstructive approach that is taking more than a year to complete. “I’ve had a few outpatient procedures with Dr. Lim,” she says. “I’ll have my final surgery in a few months.”
Kristen has no regrets about her decision to have a double mastectomy. “I am relieved to know I don’t have to worry a recurrence. It was the right decision for me,” she says.
When asked if she has any advice for other women who are at risk for breast cancer, Kristen once again stressed that early detection is vital. “If breast cancer is caught early, you’ll probably have choices in your treatment – like I did. And you should make sure you have a good team of doctors taking care of you. I am grateful to Drs. Bobolis, Guirguis and Lim. Each is wonderful on their own, but because they all worked together with me, I am healthy today.”
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