Determination, Support the Keys in Monique's Cancer Fight
MoniqueMonique received the call that changed her life on Christmas Eve. That unusual sensation she felt a few weeks earlier during a self-breast exam while getting ready for work had been diagnosed as breast cancer. Only 30-years-old, with no family history of breast cancer, the New Jersey resident struggled to absorb the news.
"I never would've imagined in a million years that this would've happened to me."
Putting Together a Treatment Team
Working her way through nursing school as a hospital social worker and the single mother of an 8-year-old son, Monique spent the next several weeks learning about the options available to women diagnosed with breast cancer. The first step, her surgeon told her, was to develop a treatment plan that involved all the physicians who would be involved in her case. The doctor recommended Dr. Sean Bidic as her plastic surgeon. Ultimately, Monique decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, which took place a week after her 31st birthday.
As part of her breast reconstruction, the New Jersey plastic surgeon inserted tissue expanders immediately after Monique's cancer surgeon completed the mastectomy. Tissue expanders are balloon-like implants that are gradually inflated to stretch the breast skin, creating an envelope where implants are inserted. About a month after that surgery, Dr. Bidic began the expansion process, which continued for 3 months. She underwent 2 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 radiation sessions during a 5-week period. She is still waiting to have the implants inserted. She admits to initially being impatient about having her breast reconstruction completed.
Learning to be Patient
"Dr. Bidic wants me to properly heal because my skin is so thin from the radiation therapy," she says of his advice to delay the surgery to replace the expanders with breast implants. "He's really good about working with me and teaching me why he's delaying the implant surgery. He makes it very easy to understand." She adds, "I felt like I wanted to hurry up and get it done. Now I'm starting to see everything he's saying. I don't want to rush."
In the meantime, Monique stuck with nursing school throughout her treatment, something she might not have done without the encouragement of Dr. Bidic and her cancer surgeon. Despite being weakened by her treatment, Monique managed to take and pass her mid-terms.
"Dr. Bidic is one of my No. 1 supporters."
Going the Extra Mile
Monique points out that although Dr. Bidic's office is about a half-hour from the hospital where she works, he typically arranges her appointments so that they occur at her work. It's just another way he's made the whole process much easier than it might otherwise have been, she says. Most recently, he's been counseling her about taking care of her skin to make it more supple and elastic as she prepares for breast implants.
Despite the challenges, Monique said she's grateful and feels lucky. She's had the support of her family, and her son's father has been part of her recuperation as well. She intends to start looking for a nursing job once the implant surgery is complete and everything starts to settle down.
"I have my life and I have my health and I have my son and my friends and family."