This week we want to introduce you to another incredible woman. Meet Laura Birdwell. Laura’s reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Jacob Unger, is a local Nashville surgeon who we at the Chrysalis Method have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know his entire staff. We started following Laura’s story after she shared her TaTa to Cancer campaign on Dr. Unger’s social media page. You can read more about her TaTa to Cancer campaign in our next post this Wednesday the 23rd so stay tuned for that! Be sure to follow Laura on her her Instagram page for continued inspiration as well as motivation.
Read Laura’s story here:
February 12th is a date that I will never forget. That was the day I was told that I had breast cancer. I’m 31 years old and never thought twice of having cancer. A little backstory, I found a lump in my breast when I was 17 years old that ended up being benign (fibroadenoma). Throughout the next few years those benign lumps kept popping up. Because of this I went for breast exams twice a year. It was at my regularly scheduled exam that my nurse found the new lump.
I had a gut feeling that it was cancer. I had a biopsy on February 7th, and had to wait until the 12thfor results. So I did that thing that you should never do, and went to “Dr. Google”. It still was not easy when the news was confirmed that I in fact had breast cancer. My mom was in the room with me and I think both of our hearts just sank. She went out to the waiting room to get my dad and when he walked in I just fell into him. I’m so lucky to have had them there with me. They are my rocks.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago. She’s the strongest women I know. She was lucky to have caught it early and is doing great today. Because of this my surgeon decided I should have the BRCA gene test done to make sure that I was not positive for that. It came back that I was negative so thankfully we do not have that gene in our family.
The next step was getting a breast MRI, Mammogram, and Ultrasound. This is where I was naïve. I thought, “Ok I have cancer. Let’s schedule surgery tomorrow and get this thing out!”. Wrong. First there are tests, then there are decisions on what kind of surgery I should have.
My doctor walked in and said that he had just presented my case to a board of doctor’s and every one of them suggested I have a double mastectomy. I knew that is what I wanted to do. My parents thought I was crazy at first. Their thoughts of mastectomy was that of decades ago. Today, you can have a mastectomy and no one would even know they aren’t your real breasts. When we met with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Jacob Unger, all of our fears turned into relief. I was able to have a nipple sparing mastectomy since my cancer was not near my nipple. Dr. Unger, or as I call him, the “good doctor”, was the best thing to come out of this crazy journey. His team at Maxwell Aesthetics’ is simply amazing. The kindness and love they showed me really meant so much.
My decision for a double mastectomy ended up being the best decision I ever made. After surgery we found out that I had 5 lymph nodes that came back positive for cancer. Because of those nodes being positive my treatment plan went from just needing surgery, to needing chemo and radiation. My doctor told me because of my age and the fact of the positive nodes, that there is not an oncologist on Earth that would not want to “throw the kitchen sink” at me. So that is what we did.
I finished chemo on September 5, 2018, and radiation the end of 2018. I am now focusing on the mental healing of the diagnosis. I continue on hormone therapy and meet with my amazing oncologist, Dr. Denise Yardley (shout out) every 3 months.
I started the “tata to cancer” movement, in hopes to raise awareness of young women with breast cancer. My hope is that one day the age of mammograms and such will not be 40, or 35. If I abided by that rule, I would not have made it to those ages. This has to change. That is why I decided to share my story.