Healthbeat: Reconstruction surgery can turn negative into positive for breast cancer patients

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Besides fighting the disease, many patients who have a mastectomy are left to cope with the loss of a body part. That’s the reality of a West Pittston woman diagnosed a decade ago.

“Your world falls apart for a minute and then you rally around and you figure out your options and you go forward. There’s nothing else to do,” said Maria Heck.

57-year-old Maria Heck reflects on her breast cancer diagnosis 10 years ago and how she’s overcome.

“I first had a bilateral mastectomy which is obviously both breasts. I had a lot of damage to the tissue underneath,” said Heck.

A few months later, she had breast implant surgery but developed reoccurring complications.

“I’ve had 11 procedures so I cannot hold those implants. I’ve tried everything,” said Heck.

Heck had the silicone implants removed for good four years ago and resigned herself to living without any augmentation.

“I hated it. I hated every minute of it. I couldn’t wear very tight clothes. I wore very billowy clothes,” said Heck.

But then she learned about DIEP flap reconstruction surgery.

“It uses your own body fat to make your own breasts that will never go away,” said Heck.

Geisinger Surgeon Dr. Lisa Jacob performed the procedure this past July by removing fat tissue from Heck’s abdomen.

“It is a little bit more complicated but it does offer a beautiful looking breast that’s very natural and it’s a part of the patient’s own tissue so there’s no chance of rejection, very minimal chance of infection so it’s a great option for many people,” said Dr. Jacob.

For Heck, an option that helped her both physically and emotionally.

“You can’t let this end your self-esteem and your happiness in life. It doesn’t have to. It’s got to be go forward, the journey is going to take you somewhere. Everything is going to be phenomenal at the end. You’re going to live a full, beautiful life. And that’s it and my future looks great right now,” said Heck.

Heck says she will undergo one more procedure. It will involve taking some more of her body tissue to round out the suture area from her reconstructed breast surgery this past summer.

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