In 2002, Barbara Bigelow was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She was 44 years old and had a strong family history: Her two older sisters also had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Barbara spent 2002 in treatment: She had a lumpectomy, sentinel node biopsy, ancillary node dissection, chemotherapy with AC for 6 rounds and 7 weeks of radiation. Shortly after Barb finished treatment, her sister Mary died–just six weeks after Mary’s metastatic breast cancer recurrence was discovered.
Barbara’s cancer diagnosis coupled with Mary’s Stage IV experience prompted Barbara to take an aggressive approach to her treatment. She had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well as a bilateral mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction. The latter was major surgery–a 16-hour procedure to remove both breasts and transplant abdominal fat to create new breasts. Revision surgery to create “nipples” followed three months later as did yet another surgery and tattooing.
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