Beating the Odds – Again and Again
JaymeBy the time Jayme learned she tested positive for the gene that made her chances of getting breast cancer extremely high, she'd already undergone 18 months of chemotherapy to overcome stage IV ovarian cancer. So there wasn't much debate in her mind about deciding to undergo a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy – surgically removing both breasts to prevent breast cancer. The New Jersey resident also decided to get breast reconstruction surgery.
"I knew what chemo was," Jayme says. "It takes its toll on you physically, and I didn't want to go through that again."
Getting a preventative double mastectomy, she says, "was the greatest thing I could do for myself."
An Unexpected Delay
Supported by her husband and 3 grown sons, Jayme started making plans for breast reconstruction surgery with New Jersey plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Bidic. But first there was a detour. Having recently retired from her job as an elementary school speech pathologist, Jayme was hiking with her family in Lake Tahoe before her scheduled mastectomy. She felt a bit dizzy and thought she was suffering from vertigo. After returning to New Jersey she made an appointment with her physician, who ordered an MRI.
When the results came back, the specialist called Jayme and told her to see her doctor immediately. The following day she underwent emergency surgery to remove a cancerous, life-threating brain tumor.
"I was shocked."
Any doubt about her chances of getting breast cancer was virtually gone, she says. After fully recovering from brain surgery, Jayme contacted Dr. Bidic to discuss the breast reconstruction.
"I had heard very good things about Dr. Bidic from other patients," says Jayme. "His bedside manner is excellent. He is very calm, and he's got a great personality."
She says she also got to know Dr. Bidic's wife, a licensed plastic surgery aesthetician, who did the nipple tattooing that required multiple appointments.
Dr. Bidic clearly explained the various reconstruction options to Jayme, including a staged procedure using tissue expanders that are gradually filled in multiple appointments. That's the most common path and the one selected by celebrity Angelina Jolie, whose decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy became common knowledge about 3 months after Jayme underwent the procedure. Patients can also use muscle and tissue taken from their backs or abdomens to help construct a new breast mound. But Jayme's diminutive frame – she stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 105 pounds – ruled out such a procedure.
Jayme ultimately opted to undergo a direct-to-implant breast reconstruction. That meant Dr. Bidic inserted her cohesive gel silicone breast implants immediately after the breast surgeon completed the double mastectomy. Jayme says she was partly concerned about the physical impact of having a multi-staged procedure, but she also worried about the psychological effects of not having breasts for some time.
"When I woke up from surgery, I had breasts. That was a blessing."
Plus, Jayme says, it helped her move on with her life.
"I'm a very active person. I wanted to be back running and going hiking."
As Active as Ever
Battling cancer and undergoing the double mastectomy hasn't slowed Jayme a bit.
"I am as active as most 30-year-old women," says the 60-year-old grandmother. "My joy is playing with my grandchildren and maintaining a close relationship with my husband of 37 years. The Lord has blessed me."
She also has some words of wisdom for women who carry one of the genes (known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2) that increase the likelihood of getting breast cancer – having a mastectomy doesn't change who you are.
"You're still a woman. You still have the spirit of who you are."
And, thanks to advances in breast reconstruction procedures and the skill of a plastic surgeon like Dr. Bidic, says Jayme, the physical changes include some benefits.
"I look better in a swimsuit now than I ever did before."