2012 Survivor Honoree Therese Flaherty Regarding Her Fairytale Ending
Among other personal tragedies in 2009, I was recovering from a car accident that left me with a very sore body. Shortly thereafter, during a well-woman exam, my Gynecologist convinced me that I had put-off my annual mammogram long enough.
After a series of tests that included a screening mammogram, diagnostic mammogram, ultra-sound and biopsy, I received the dreaded news: I had breast cancer. I was overwhelmed with feelings of devastation and sadness, but still wondering if my doctor called the right person.
I immediately made an appointment with Breast Surgeon, Dr. Arlene Ricardo. Even though I had cancer in only one breast, I opted for a double mastectomy since breast cancer was prevalent in both sides of my family. During the surgery, 5 out of 16 lymphnodes were found positive for cancer. But with the skilled hands of Dr. Ricardo, I believe I’ve been cancer-free since September 8, 2009, the date of my surgery.
Immediately following the mastectomy, my Plastic Surgeon started the breast reconstruction process with tissue expanders. As the expanders promoted skin growth, I received saline injections to restore my bust to its previous size.
During this time, I was also receiving chemotherapy treatments. Once I completed the chemo at Texas Oncology, I transferred my care to MD Anderson in Sugar Land. There, at Dr. Isadora Arzu’s recommendation, I received 30 radiation treatments.
My lymphatic system had been compromised and ironically, radiation actually promotes lymphedema; so while receiving radiation treatment, I sought out lymphedema prevention treatment, as well. It was then that I met Tammy Sweed, owner of HOPE Lymphedema Treatment Center, who quickly became my friend.
After the swelling was gone, I had surgery to replace the uncomfortable tissue expanders with softer, silicone implants. After nipple reconstruction and tattooing of the areolae, I finally felt and looked natural again. I didn’t care that they were artificial – I was still alive!
After a few years of unemployment, I am glad to be back in the work-force. Happy, healthy and looking forward to a long, fulfilling life ahead!
Being a participant of “40 over 40 Project” introduced me to Cortney Cole Hall and Pink Door Nonprofit Organization. My passion is educating woman about breast health and raising funds for cancer charities like Pink Door. Being named this year’s “Survivor Honoree” was the surprise and honor of a lifetime!
By Therese Flaherty