Dagmar Herbstreuter | I'm Taking Charge

Dagmar Herbstreuter

Dagmar Herbstreuter

I had a nagging suspicion something was wrong when I felt a lump in my right breast, though I have no family history of breast cancer. My official diagnosis came on March 13, 2013 and turned my life upside down. Never having experienced such agony before, the only way I could describe it to my husband was that my soul hurt.

What I recall of the first few days after diagnosis is absolute craziness. I was scheduled for test after test, while I sat in fear awaiting results. I had so many questions and wanted to read every book ever written on cancer before my treatment started. I finally decided to embark on my journey as a blank canvas. I had an epiphany: I have an incredible team of doctors and I am going to let them do their job. Meanwhile, I would do what was possible to carry on life as normal.

Under guidance from my doctor, I went through 16 rounds of chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and reconstruction about three weeks later. The fact that I could start the reconstruction process at the same time as the mastectomy was a huge relief. Plus, I don’t know how I would have dealt with waking up from surgery completely flat with my breasts removed.

Prior to the reconstruction, I met with a few plastic surgeons, but immediately after meeting my doctor I knew I had come to the right person. To top it off he mentioned a clinical trial for a new tissue expander from AirXpanders that would allow me to be more active throughout the reconstruction process. At first I thought, ‘this is great,’ but then doubt set in and I started thinking about what could go wrong. I thought it over for about three weeks. In the end, I was swayed by how easy and fast the process seemed compared to saline tissue expansion, which I had heard stories about.

As it turns out, I wouldn’t change a thing about my treatment process. The fact that the expander was completely noninvasive and that I could do it at home was really impressive. I used a remote control to administer compressed gas into it three times a day. I even used it once while I was eating at a restaurant. I had my mastectomy in August 2013 and by late September I had completed the reconstruction process. No one I spoke with could believe it. With my cancer I was always looking to get to the next step, and my fantastic team of doctors really allowed me to do that. I don’t even like to refer to my treatment and recovery as a journey – I consider it more of a metamorphosis. I came out on the other side a better person and friend.

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