Kristen Dahlgren explores a process that can change her life after breast cancer.


It is hard to believe that it has been more than a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time I remember someone telling me that next year would be hell. In many ways he was not wrong. For now, life has returned to a glimpse of normal, and I am trying to enjoy every second. However, a constant reminder of what I am doing and what is yet to come. It strikes me every time I take a deep breath, or hug, and especially when my daughter lays her head on my chest. That I’m really “feeling” when breast cancer has taken its toll. It is restlessness and numbness all at once. Of all the side effects of treatment, for me, this may be the most difficult.

Before breast cancer, I never realized that women who have mastectomy feel pain in their chest. This is understandable, certainly – since the veins are cut off during surgery – but this is not something that is often talked about. After all, the most important thing in surgery is eliminating all cancers and saving your life. So, being shocked is something that I thought I would just have to live.

Luckily, a friend introduced me to a doctor in New York City, who is performing a procedure that can change the way a woman feels after a mastectomy. Dr. Constance Chen, MD, a reconstructive plastic surgeon, is one of a handful of surgeons who are reconnecting nerves as part of natural tissue or “flap” reconstruction. She removes fat and tissue from another part of your body to make the breasts, but when she microsurgery to connect the blood supply, she also uses a nerve graft to burst the veins in the chest. is. This is similar to grafts that have been used since 2007 in arms, legs and hands.

It is in my nature to research everything, so I asked other plastic surgeons about the possibility of feeling in my chest. He told me, “It doesn’t really work,” or “The process isn’t there yet,” but when I called Dr. Talked with Chen’s patients, so I heard a very different story.

Jane Obidia’s experience is the one that stood out the most. She was 43 when she was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. She was relatively recently married, and was about to become a mother through a surrogate. In fact, the week she was diagnosed, she was about to implant her fetus. Today she laughs at the cruel times of the disease and has her first conversation with her breast surgeon. Obidia recalled her doctor saying, “You know, it’s taken me all this time to find the man of my dreams. What do I have to do to grow old and wrinkle with him?” And he said, ‘Double mastectomy.’

So that’s what he did. However, the reality of what that meant came months after nurses put their new baby, Alana, on her chest. She could not feel the baby because the surgery numb her. The joy of that first moment with her child was combined with all that took away breast cancer.

Jane Obidia with her child, Alana. Courtesy Jane Obidia

She knew that she must feel lucky to be alive and she did, but she says she never felt like herself. She thought that this was something she had to live with, and then a problem with her transplant caused her to go to Dr. Chain and led to a natural tissue reconstruction as well as a process called Resensation.

Today, she reveals that she has 80% to go back. She can now hug her daughter, or pour water on her chest to swim. She told me, “What this surgery gave me was the ability to stand in front of my husband and be able to say,” You’ve got people back “, saying,” Bringing that relationship back to her Should be able to: Everything is done. “

It was his story that helped convince me to start the process of reconstruction later this year. Dr. Chen warns me that there is no guarantee. She can’t say that it works for everyone, but she says that when it works, it works well.

The procedure can add a few hours to an already lengthy surgery. It is often covered by insurance under a law that guarantees women the right to rebuild after a mastectomy, and is now being studied to help analyze the results.