We met a 50 year old woman from Massachusetts who was just diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer.
She originally had a lumpectomy and now is considering a mastectomy with no reconstruction or the tram flap surgery. She was struggling with her decision and wanted to talk to some people who had tried both options.
We paired her up with two different women– one who chose not to have reconstruction, and is doing great, and another woman in Illinois who had the tram flap surgery. All 3 women were about the same age and had very similar situations…same stage, same initial treatment plan, etc. The pair up will allow the fighter to evaluate both options through understanding the experiences of both women and can gain support as she continues on with a decision!
About Tram Flap Surgery
Tram flap surgery works by moving a small amount of skin, fat, and muscle from the abdomen up to the breast area. The move is done surgically and through a small opening in the body and is quite unlike a transplant or other surgery that takes parts of skin off of the body and grafts it onto another. The tissue that has been moved is then molded into the shape of a natural breast. Blood vessels are reattached to the area so that it can grow and live like normal tissue.
The surgery results in a breast made out of the patient’s own body, so that there is a diminished risk of bodily rejection and little problem in coloration problems. The breasts are shaped in similar forms to one another. Since they are made of actual living tissue rather than some artificial device, the breasts feel normal to the touch.
Today we paired up a 46 year old man with Stage 4 Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma from Maryland with 2 men close to the same age who beat this cancer 6 years ago in Ohio and California. This is a particularly special pair up, as it is a very rare form of cancer.
What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?
A cancer that grows in the soft tissues of the body, most often in muscles, rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare disease that most often occurs in children and young adults, but can also occur in adults. Rhabdomyosarcoma are broken down into three different types: Embryonal (ERMS), alveolar (ARMS), and pleomorphic (PRMS). ERMS and ARMS typically occur in children and young adults while PRMS occurs in adults. Pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare tumor of skeletal muscle phenotype, and usually develops in the large muscles of the legs and arms.
IA Connects a young woman with Ovarian Cancer with a survivor across the country!
Last week we connected a 17 year old girl living in Pennsylvania fighting stage III Ovarian cancer with a 20 year old survivor from Portland, OR (but going to school here in Chicago) who survived stage III Ovarian cancer and is doing great. She is excited to give back and inspire others with her story! We also connected their Moms for caregiver support. It was the perfect family pair-up!
Our first pair up story: IA connects a Hodgkin’s fighter with two survivors:
Last week we connected a 24 year old woman living in Irvine, CA going through treatment for stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with another 24 year old girl living in Rochester, NY who had survived stage IV Hodgkin’s. Because of the rare type of treatment regimen she was receiving, we also connected the fighter to another survivor, a 29 year old gentlemen living in Austin, TX who also survived HL and went through BEACOPP14.
The fighter was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to meet two different individuals who had “been there, done that” and could provide some inspiration and insight on her upcoming cancer journey. We already received great feedback that they’ve connected and spent hours on the telephone!
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An IA blog would not be an IA blog if we did not share the unique stories that we have about the brave fighters and survivors that are meeting every day through our pair up process. Check in regularly to hear stories about the people all over the world who are working together to fight cancer in 1-on-1 relationships.
To kick off our pair up story posts, let’s quickly run through our process:
1. Imerman Angels learns about a cancer fighter in need. This can happen in a few different ways. Sometimes a cancer fighter directly contacts Imerman Angels. Other times, a friend or family member contacts Imerman Angels on behalf of a cancer fighter. In addition, hospitals and other organizations refer cancer fighters to us.
2. Once the initial contact is made, an Imerman Angels representative speaks, either in person or by telephone, with each cancer fighter. The representative asks about cancer type, treatments, age, gender, family, geographic location, and any other relevant information for the connection. (All Imerman Angels representatives are cancer survivors.)
3. The Imerman Angels representative uses our database to identify a survivor who is most similar to the fighter. We examine the survivor list in order to find the most appropriate survivor. For example, we would pair up a married woman fighting cervical cancer with another married woman who has survived cervical cancer.
The last step is the actual connection. Once the fighter-survivor match has been identified, the Imerman Angels representative calls the fighter to tell him or her about the survivor. The representative also calls the survivor to tell about the fighter. We provide the necessary contact information to both the fighter and survivor. At that point, the relationship is completely in the hands of the fighter-survivor pair. We, of course, are always available for further advice, information, or guidance.
Check in on Tuesday when we share our first pair up story!