Patient of courage





AGE 49


Read Cassileth Plastic Surgery’s courageous patients who have had amazing stories with their battle with breast cancer.



Just after Maria’s 49th birthday she was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast. She is a curvy, 36 DD size, who loves her shape and size. Contemplating having a mastectomy was difficult to digest. She decided to have chemotherapy and thought that might be her only course of action against this first stage cancer.

Her mother had a mastectomy without reconstructive surgery 10 years prior, she’d had enough of dealing with cancer surgery, in fact, the thought of having her breasts removed followed by reconstructive surgery  revolted her.  But Maria’s mother and her family encouraged her to explore her options. She had tested negative for the BRCA genes. So, it seems the cancer was not genetic but rather a double misfortune in her family that through her deft ability to research she turned into a fortunate situation that she is proud to share. Maria is an esteemed academic with a degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D from the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

While she was undergoing chemotherapy, she began to make appointments with reconstructive surgeons to discuss her options for breast reconstruction. She doesn’t overwhelm easily, but as she sat in a two-hour meeting with a male plastic surgeon telling her how he would place deflated temporary implants (expanders), at the time of mastectomy. She would then return to his office regularly to have the implants inflated, a process she envisioned to be like going to the gas station to fill up these rafts that would stretch her pectoral muscle to eventually be able to hold a permanent implant placed on the second surgery, overwhelmed her. After visiting three reconstruction surgeons, she landed in the office of Dr. Lisa Cassileth. The first female breast reconstruction surgeon she met. And the words that resonated with her most were,

“Your  reconstructed breasts will move and feel like real breasts,” Dr. Cassileth said. “When you lay on your side breasts should move to the side and have these will have the same motion as natural breasts.”

Dr. Cassileth was a combination of witty, creatively, aesthetically and spatially gifted. And being a woman, she understood what Maria was looking for. She gave Maria the gift of being able to wake up from a mastectomy with a natural-looking set of breasts. NO second surgery. NO visits to the pumping station. NO waking up with a flat chest.

Maria sighed with relief.

“I’m so glad I waited to find Lisa,” she said. “Not all women battling breast cancer have the energy to visit with four reconstruction surgeons before finding the right one.”

Maria woke up from the mastectomy with her new breasts intact, just as Dr. Cassileth promised. And yes, they do move like real breasts when she turns on her side. Dr. Cassileth concealed the tiny incision from her surgery with nipple reconstruction. There is no visual trace of the mastectomy.

“My breasts feel and look natural,” Maria said. “I even wear a bra to protect them from gravity.”