In Her Words: Liz Munn’s Story of Survival

The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction is so proud to publish this moving article featuring Liz Munn, a breast cancer survivor who’s passionate about educating others about breast cancer and finding funding for uninsured women. Thank you, Liz, for sharing your story with the world.

You’re coming up on the first anniversary of your breast cancer diagnosis, tell us about your year.
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I learned a great deal about myself this year. I have come to appreciate the things that are important to me a little more, and of course that includes my family and friends. I think this year taught me not to waste time with things that aren’t as important as others. It provided with me focus and gave me strength I didn’t know I had.

How do you feel like a collaborative team of physicians/surgeons was important to your recovery?

This process takes dedication. I would say that’s also the perfect word to describe this team. There is nothing easy about the process and it can be trying. But this team was dedicated to seeing a successful outcome for me from the start. No question was too small, and they supported me the entire way through. I can’t say enough about how well I was treated and supported by everyone involved. My husband and I are so thankful to have had that type of support. I appreciated being able to see the entire team at one location; it helped when I was recovering and my energy was a hot commodity.

Did you speak to anyone who had reconstruction prior to choosing your procedure?  Did you find this helpful?

When I was diagnosed, it was overwhelming for me. My sister worked with a patient of Dr. Craigie’s and we had several long conversations about the procedure. She had a complicated case. Her treatment involved multiple surgeries and some delays with reconstruction for treatment options. Even after all she had been through she still felt this was the best option for her. She was very supportive and understanding of the difficult decisions that I needed to make for myself. My main concern was for my long-term results and the best possible outcome. With the risks and benefits of reconstruction in mind, I knew it was the right decision for me. The success rate for natural reconstruction was extremely high and I was a good candidate for the surgery. I was so glad to have others (who had been through the surgery) to talk to, and it was a huge comfort for me.

You, like many of our patients, feel a need to give back.  We understand your passion is promoting the importance of screening mammograms and finding funding for those who might be uninsured, what’s your plan to get the word out?

I believe everyone has a gift, and my gift is helping people grow their businesses. I plan to hold an annual training webinar through my website with all proceeds going to Lowcountry Komen. I was so fortunate to have great health insurance and live in a place that has amazing healthcare available, but not everyone is in that situation. I believe that mammograms and available choices for treatment and reconstruction are the most important things women can receive from her health provider. However, many women are afraid to see a doctor or don’t understand the process. Knowledge and choice are truly powerful things, and I know that Lowcountry Komen supports these ideals.

I am also willing to discuss my personal journey with anyone at any time. Sometimes seeing that it is possible to get better, and knowing that it does get easier, gives you the courage and energy to take care of yourself.

In Her Words: Shirley Nilsen

This week we’re happy to highlight Shirley Nilsen’s story for In Her Words. Shirley, a breast cancer survivor, spearheads an initiative for East Cooper Medical Center, where volunteers  provide plush essential care bags to post-surgery breast reconstruction patients. She reminds us that even the smallest gestures of kindest go a long way.

East Cooper Medical Center Care Bags

This is an incredible initiative and it’s managed by all volunteers! Tell me a little more about the initiative, why it was created and what it means to you.

We were approached last year by the Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction to see if our Volunteer Services Organization, a non-profit entity that provides scholarships for students going into the medical field, medications for patients who need financial assistance, and donations to charities in the East Cooper area, would be interested in providing basic essentials to breast reconstruction patients upon discharge. 

The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction held a fund-raiser and $2167 was raised, with 20% of the money going to The Plastic Surgery Foundation Breast Reconstruction Awareness Fund.  The remainder was donated to the VSO, who put together bags to give to any patient of any physician who had breast reconstruction at East Cooper Medical Center.   

What items are included in post-op care bags for reconstruction patients? 

4” x 4” Gauze Sponges, 2 packs of warm, fuzzy non-skid socks; pink-ribbon pin; pink-ribbon manicure set; pink-ribbon pen and pad set; pill box; travel mirror. 

Do you have any stories from you or a loved one about breast cancer survival or wellness? 

I am a breast cancer survivor and have had reconstruction.  Although my surgery was over 10 years ago, I still remember the feeling of thinking “will I still feel like a woman, will I be perceived any differently because I have had my breast removed and how will my reconstruction look.  I was very lucky that I had the support of my husband, family and friends.  Unfortunately, all women do not have that support and my heart truly hurts for those women.  The volunteers want women to know that they care.  There is a note in the bag from the volunteers which says:

The Volunteers at East Cooper Medical Center would like to present this lovely tote bag and the little gifts inside to show their support for you as you recover from your surgery.  The funds to purchase these items came from a fundraiser in October, 2012 whose purpose was to show support for women undergoing breast reconstruction surgery.  We hope you find these items useful and we wish you a speedy recovery.

 How can people support this ongoing project?

People can make a donation to the Volunteer Service Organization at East Cooper Medical Center, 2000 Hospital Drive, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464, designating that their donation go to the “Breast Reconstruction Fund”.  

You’re Not Alone: The Best of “In Her Words”

As we enter October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s more important than ever to make sure the message is clear: You are not alone.

Every day, walking among us, are women who just received their diagnosis, who just underwent their first biopsy or their first radiation treatment, who just met with a doctor they will see for many years as they fight for their lives, who just scheduled their first surgery or their reconstruction.

There is a saying, “A woman is like a tea bag…you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”

That’s why we are so proud to present this archive of In Her Words guest blogs.

These women have gone through tremendous challenges to overcome cancer or stand up for those who are breast cancer survivors or current patients. We hope these stories give you comfort, inspire you, and show you that you are not alone. Feel free to share these with the loved ones in your life, too, and don’t hesitate to contact our Center if you are seeking breast reconstruction information or options.

From Our “In Her Words” Archive:

With love and support,

The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction