SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Two years ago, Shauna Smith heard the news: she had breast cancer.
“I think you’d like to know this, but this does not look good”, her doctor told Smith.
She was only 35.
Smith learned the hard way that she was not too young for breast cancer. But she also learned you’re never too old to give your breast a name.
“Virginia came into my mind like that,” Smith said, snapping her fingers.
Naming her breast “Virginia” evolved into a detailed account of the life and times of a breast cancer survivor.
“Meet Virginia: Biography of a Breast” is a book designed for breast cancer patients and their families. Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Leigh Neumayer and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jay Agarwal wrote the book.
Photographer Anne Vinsel documented every step of Smith’s mastectomy and reconstruction.
Seeing photos of her surgery helped Shauna heal.
Shauna pointed to one surgical picture saying, “There’s a picture of Dr. Neumayer inverting my nipple and I can see the inside of my breast. It’s clean and it’s pink and it’s fresh and new and to me that was like a new start.”
Agarwal said when it comes to reconstruction surgery, “As far as their overall outlook, their recovery, women that undergo a successful reconstruction seem to do better with coping with their ongoing treatment, and with getting back integrated into their family life, and social life.”
They also live longer.
While most women can have immediate breast reconstruction, less than 25 percent do. Most women don’t even know it’s an option.
“To me that’s unacceptable because there’s no reason not to do it,” Neumayer said. “Women who come out of the operating room with a breast do better.”
Spreading the word about the option, that there is hope and peace after the shock and trauma of cancer is why Shauna and Virginia bared it all.
“For women to know that it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay,” Smith said.
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