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"Plastic Surgery Breast Reconstruction"

About: Southmead Hospital

I have been under the plastics department for nearly three years, following a breast cancer diagnosis, due to radiotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's Disease, 26 years ago. I underwent a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction, using my stomach, all in one 12 hour operation, as I could not have radiotherapy in the same area again. Although I was terrified, I was "fortunate" to go into this operation with breasts and wake-up with new ones, rather than having to overcome the shock of having nothing there - I felt butchered enough, on top of a cancer diagnosis and it took me a while to accept how I looked, albeit temporary, as more reconstructive surgery was planned. My double mastectomy was on 23rd October 2014 and I have gone on to have an adjustment operation and nipple reconstruction, having my final outpatient appointment with this clinic on 28th July 2017. I have now come to accept the way I look. Cancer has robbed me of my breasts, my hair and my confidence plus I gained weight with the chemo - everything a woman holds dear was taken from me. Slowly, and over two and a half years later, my hair is now getting longer and my confidence is returning. I am beginning to feel like a woman again and dare to feel "sexy" in a lowcut top. People don't see what lies beneath so they don't really understand the psycological effects of a double mastectomy. Without the reconstruction, I would not have the confidence to hold my head up, socialise and would probably have ended up on anti-depressants, needing counselling and relationships with family and friends would be strained. As it is, with my "breasts" now accepted, I feel I can go on to live my life as before but that is only thanks to the amazing work and skill offered to me by the plastics team. No-one asks for cancer to knock on their door and that's harrowing in itself, without having to endure the surgery, the treatment (and all that entails!), the recovery and to stay in sound mind and be positive. Cancer isn't a choice and neither is reconstructive surgery - it is a must for woman enduring this terrible ordeal. I wouldn't have achieved any of what I have if it wasn't for my reconstructive surgery, and that's the truth. In view of this, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone involved in the plastics department.

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Response from Southmead Hospital

Dear Hayley,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and feedback with us, as you say no one asks for cancer to knock at their door, and somewhere from within you have to be brave to deal with all that comes with that.

I am so glad to hear that you are feeling confident with how you look, and that the care and treatment that has been provided by the Plastics team along with your own bravery and self believe has helped to achieve that.

Please be assured that your comments have been shared with the Plastics Team so that they are aware of your kind comments.

With all best wishes, Sue Needs, Deputy Advice & Complaints Team Manager.

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