By Lana Koifman
Liza Minelli once said that it is “It is the regrets of yesterday and fears of tomorrow that kill you.” These words become even more powerful during the fight against cancer.
Here are the 10 most important things I learned in my own recovery and in supporting other fighters:
1. There is no reason to have a mastectomy scar now there are many new “key hole” procedures. In the past, mastectomy meant losing most of the muscle in your chest and a huge gash across a bosom. Luckily, this is no longer the case. Most often skin-sparing mastectomies with incisions around the nipple leave only small scars.
2. Make sure you let your surgeon know to leave enough skin for nipple reconstruction. It would seem that the simplest stage of reconstruction is nipple reconstruction, however, nipple reconstruction that is performed incorrectly can cause serious problems. See our forthcoming chapter on Breast Reconstruction for different techniques.
3. A pimple-like rash is often not like “teenage” pimples. Do not use acne cream! Chemotherapy can cause red spots similar to adolescent acne. However, this rash is not acne. Treating with pimple creams and benzoyl peroxide can just irritate it. Use gentle topical ointment such as Aquaphor instead.
4. Do not have Botox, fillers or other injectables during chemo treatments. Some doctors disagree about this, but because your immune system is compromised by chemo and radiation, injections can cause infection. While the immune system is compromised, use gentle topical creams and masks to keep the skin moisturized. See our forthcoming chapter on Skin Care for many products to help!
5. Use a tattoo artist for an areola reconstruction. Your insurance is most likely to cover it! Even the best plastic surgeons are not proficient with tattooing. Tattoo artists are trained in matching colors and making the dark area of the nipple look very natural. Because reconstruction of the areola is part of breast reconstruction, most insurance companies are required to cover the cost.
6. It is NOT “your mother’s mastectomy”. The results from a modern mastectomy can be very aesthetically pleasing. Every year thousands of women choose not to go for life-saving surgeries for the fear of looking “deformed.” Do not make that tragic decision: modern breast reconstruction techniques often yield natural, beautiful results.
7. Consult a plastic surgeon to prevent large scars in any surgical procedure. When first diagnosed with cancer, the most natural and correct desire is to survive. However, do remember now that you may care how a scar looks in the future, even if that scar is not in a visible area. Consulting and involving a plastic surgeon from the very beginning of ANY surgery can save pain and cost in the future.
8. Do not ignore mouth sores: they can lead to tooth decay and loss! Mouth sores are often listed as one of the first side effects of chemotherapy. Because cancer fighters expect mouth sores to appear, they do not pay enough attention when these sores become infected or painful. If sores persist for more than a couple of days, consult both your oncologist and your dentist for treatment.
9. With the right preparation, you can remain beautiful during your ordeal. One of the fears in the cancer battle is that you will look horrible, not at all like yourself, and that everyone will know you are sick. With some preparation, you can remain very much looking like yourself. Surviving Beautifully is committed to helping you with every aspect of aesthetics from nail treatments to skin to hair care and reconstruction. Each chapter in our upcoming book is devoted to showing you way to look like yourself during treatment…and beyond!
10. Yes, you can look and feel normal again. The first question that a newly diagnosed cancer fighter always asks me is “Will I feel normal or happy again?” The answer is absolutely YES! Do not judge how you will eventually feel by how you are feeling now. You may emerge from this battle with better self-knowledge and confidence. Courage gives radiance and beauty few other things do.
10 Things I Wish I had Known… By Lana Koifman Liza Minelli once said that it is “It is Read More