TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- “I’m still here,” said breast cancer survivor JoAnn Ganc in an interview with NEWS10’s Christina Arangio. Four years and multiple surgeries later, Ganc said she continues to struggle some days but she wants to let others like her know they are not alone.
Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Ganc said she noticed something was wrong. She felt tired and noticed her dogs were also acting strangely towards her. It was then that she found a lump while doing her first self-breast exam.
She was 37 years old with no family history of breast cancer and no previous diagnosis.
Doctors initially thought her cancer was Stage One but a biopsy showed it was Stage Two. There was no debate in her mind as to what she wanted to do. She chose to have a double mastectomy and opted out of having the reconstruction.
A women’s right to choose breast reconstruction after a partial or full mastectomy is protected under federal and state law, as Albany Medical Center’s Dr. Jeff Kim explained previously.
Fearing a second diagnosis in the future, Ganc chose to have a complete mastectomy. After speaking with women about their reconstruction surgeries, she said she decided against the reconstruction surgery choosing to “go flat”.
However, with two staph infections after her mastectomy and two revisions, she said the difficulties of dealing with breast cancer, surgery, and treatment are often not talked about. Although she considers herself a strong person, Ganc said it was a dark chapter in her life that left her humbled.
Speaking to the struggles of a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent decision to not undergo reconstruction surgery, it’s a roller coaster of emotions she continues to battle in the form of anxiety while out in public. Part of that she said is trying to find clothing that fits properly.
The decision to reconstruct or not is very personal. There is no “right way” to approach mastectomy and reconstruction (or lack of it). There is only the way that is best for you, your preferences, and your healing.
Some women who want no reconstruction say their doctors just assumed they wanted reconstruction or that they’ve felt pressured by their doctors or family members to have reconstruction.
If you feel that your doctor isn’t fully listening to you or isn’t taking your choice of no reconstruction seriously, make an appointment with another surgeon to get a second opinion. Because the choice to reconstruct or not is very personal, you need a surgeon who listens to you and explains things in ways you can understand. It’s also important that you know all of your reconstructive options, especially if those initially presented to you aren’t appealing. Studies from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have found that more than 70% of women aren’t fully informed about their reconstructive options before mastectomy.breastcancer.org
Approximately 56% of women choose reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy while the remaining 44% do not, according to breastcancer.org. Ganc spoke candidly about her decision, “There was no other choice for me. I like to teach my kids that, you know, you deal with what you’re given and you don’t need to be or look a certain way. It’s about more than just your appearance.”