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02-15-2018 Breast Cancer Sisters

Girls On Car

Sister-like Support...where we can share our heart freely, be listened to and understood. Sometimes we're shaken to the core. We're in shock, confused & anxious about all the unknowns….all the decisions. To find someone who is a littler further down the path from us is so valuable. They've found their way through and they are ok. They have perspective from their experiences that we're hungry to hear. They affirm our feelings aren't crazy. They listen, make us laugh, cry & want to hug them, even though they may live around the world. And then, all of a sudden, there are new women that we are helping support along the way. And it feels good to do that. It gives meaning and purpose if our experiences help make the path a little clearer and easier for someone else. Close friendships are formed on the battlefield.

I hope you have a good support network. Sometimes family and friends are supportive and sometimes, even if they want to be, they just can't understand from the inside out. No matter what, you don't need to "go it alone", there is an online support community for almost anything you struggle with. There are support groups for each type of reconstruction surgery (various types of flap, implant and fat graft surgeries) and there are support groups if you choose not to reconstruct like Flat & Fabulous.

One of the first support groups I became aware of was breastcancer.org. It's a very large, active site. On the home page, there are many practical topics helping walk you through essential information related to: symptoms /diagnosis, treatments and side effects; reconstruction options; day to day matters etc.. Once you log in, you have a side bar that includes Active Topics, My Favorite Topics, Private Messaging and Search options that help ease navigation on your specific areas of interest.

I really like the Sisters in Scars facebook group. It's very simple to navigate and almost every post receives prompt and encouraging responses covering a multitude of breast cancer concerns and issues. A quote from the Sisters In Scars website: "Michele (founder) and her group of administrators and executives continue to grow the vision of Sisters In Scars. We are committed to growing into a solid non-profit that expands our outreach to include frequent retreats, gifts to patients having surgery across the globe, development of local chapters to provide support on a more focused and personal level, surgical recovery products specialized for mastectomy and reconstruction patients, and promoting education to the public about preventative breast cancer surgeries and being a previvor."

I have learned so much about hereditary breast cancer from Tracy, the founder of BRCAStrong (facebook group and website brcastrong.org). Instead of being devastated by discovering she was BRCA2 positive in her early 20's, she has become a (self proclaimed) "Soul on Fire" to inspire, inform and support Previvors . "BRCAStrong will navigate you through the process with others who are making the same decisions and facing the same fears. Empowering women living with reconstruction or no reconstruction after mastectomies is imperative. We can help women network with the right foundation and physicians to properly support their needs. Our mission is to support, educate, inspire and empower Previvors & Survivors, to eliminate the feeling of isolation.”

Hopefully, you have found a place to give and receive support. The depth of friendship formed in the "battleground" is one of the beautiful silver linings of going down these unexpected paths.

01-28-2018 Happy Birthday to Us!

Birthday Cake

Welcome to the first Naturally Impressive blog post! This month, we're celebrating the 8th birthday of Naturally Impressive, LLC. We never expected to become "nipple prosthetic specialists", it just "happened". Well, breast cancer happened and on the path to restoration, my wonderful, problem solving hubby, discovered a way to make a quality nipple replacement for me. My plastic surgeon was impressed and invited us to display them during an international breast surgeon training conference. We were blown away by their enthusiastic response! We had no idea how elusive a good nipple solution has been for women after breast cancer surgery!

Like one of our clients says "Women want nipples!" It's ironic because most of our lives, we have been trying to hide them. Once we lose them, when we see our reflection in the mirror, we just don't feel "normal". Some women say they feel like a blank slate. I had one breast removed, so I felt lopsided.

The first thought for many women is surgical nipple reconstruction. But if you've had radiation they will very likely flatten (they often flatten even if you haven't had radiation). If you have thin skin over implants, surgery is risky, you could even lose your implants and have to start over again. Many women have had ENOUGH surgery and just do not want to go through any more pain or surgical risk.

Tattoos have no dimension, tend to fade (especially on radiated skin) and if not done well, you're stuck with them. The mass produced nipple prosthetics most surgeons had seen looked fake and fell off unpredictably, so hardly worth mentioning as an option to their patients.

It's been a continual evolution with Naturally Impressive nipples with a multitude of problem solving "opportunities". Brian was usually able to come up with a solution within 24 hours of feeling like we hit a wall. We're very satisfied with our current design, adhesive and remover. We don't claim to be perfect (nothing but the originals are), but our clients keep telling us how much they love how real Naturally Impressive nipples look and how well they stay on. Their vote of confidence, friendship and repeat sales rocks our boat.

Naturally Impressive nipples might not be the final solution for every woman wanting nipples after breast reconstruction, but what joy to hear from so many who are thrilled to have found the simplicity of the Naturally Impressive option.