The breast cancer diagnosis at age 34 took Amanda, a singer and designer, by surprise, but did not devastate her life. She attributes what she deemed a “minor inconvenience” to her skilled breast reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Lisa Cassileth.
The day after Amanda's double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, she was working in her hospital room. She has her own business. Two weeks after her surgery, she slipped into a low-cut dress, stepped out onto the stage, into the spotlight and sang in soulful celebration to a full house of 8,000 people in San Pedro
"I was singing my heart out, bringing down the house," she said. "It was the most invigorating experience, the best I've ever sang."
She's not candy-coating breast cancer. Facing a breast cancer diagnosis, the grim shadow of death and losing her breasts were traumatic. In the interim period after her diagnosis and the two months it took to get an appointment with the oncologist her health insurance covered, her boyfriend did research online to find the best breast cancer specialists at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. The lump was small enough that she could have a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy. She remembered having "what if" conversations with friends about breast cancer and she was always the one to say in her English accent, "I'd just take the whole lot off." Faced with the reality of breast cancer, the option of lumpectomy and saving one breast prompted an earlier realization.
"Do I have any other options?" Amanda asked the oncologist who said dismissively a double mastectomy. She was referred to Dr. Cassileth, breast reconstruction specialist with Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
"I instantly trusted Lisa," Amanda said about their first meeting. Dr. Cassileth suggested that a double mastectomy and reconstruction would give her the best outcome both for breast cancer prevention and aesthetics. Dr. Cassileth showed Amanda the before and after photos. Dr. Cassileth's work spoke for itself. She was artist, just like Amanda.
After everything was booked for her mastectomy with Dr. Cassileth, the other oncologist finally called. Amanda went for a second opinion considering this option would have been paid for by her insurance. The minute she laid eyes on the before and after photos, she understood why women were so traumatized by this experience. She had to turn her face from the horrible images not to mention the down time of having to go through two surgeries was inconceivable after learning Dr. Cassileth could do it in one.
On the big day, she happily went into surgery knowing she was in good hands with Dr. Cassileth. The good news is she did not even need chemotherapy after. Just as Dr. Cassileth promised, there are no signs of the mastectomy and her breasts are exactly the same size as her natural breasts. "I didn't even have to get new bras, they're perfect," Amanda said. The only thing that changed in her life with breast cancer is she learned to slow down and take time to appreciate the love of her boyfriend and family.
"I don't know why anyone would choose to go through this without Lisa," she said.