Breast Cancer Reconstruction

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October- and Breast Cancer Awareness Month- may be in the rear-view mirror, but we wanted to share with you one more story of a breast cancer survivor who is loving her life after the awful diagnosis. 

You can get a cut and color with a side of sass at Missy's Hair Design in Hanover Township.  Donna Brenner has worked here since she was diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago.     

"By the time we finally got to that point it had spread, into my lymph nodes and other areas," she remembers.

Donna and her daughter Becca detailed all she has gone through: long days of chemotherapy, infections, radiation, blood clots, and even a seizure.
"She has no lymph nodes in her left arm, they were infected.  She's missing half in her right arm.  And she had a radical double mastectomy, both breasts completely gone," said Becca.

Donna is on the last step now of her breast reconstruction.  It took two plastic and reconstructive surgeons 14 hours, using an advanced technique called micro surgery.  Dr. Ashish Mahajan was one of those surgeons, at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre.

"It's a very delicate technique.  We use sutures finer than a human hair, sometimes only one to two millimieters," said Dr. Mahajan.

He determined that, instead of a breast implant, Donna's own tissue would work best.

"In Ms. Brenner's case we left the tissue attached to the muscle and moved her abdominal muscles to her chest, along with the tissue."        

You always say- you don't need em, you don't want em, cause they're killing you!  But when it comes down to it, it is difficult.  But by the time my cancer was as bad as it was, I didn't have any choices.  Choices were made for me," Donna remembers.

Geisinger officials say the reconstructive surgery was a complicated process, and one formerly only available at bigger city hospitals.  Donna's friends joke they're jealous of her "instant tummy tuck and new chest."
Becca is still at her mom's side, handling her medications and doctors appointments.  The two say they're getting through with support from friends and family, and a whole lot of comedy.

"Humor!  you gotta have humor," Donna said.