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“The connection and communication among the doctors at Henry Ford Allegiance Health gave me confidence to go through my breast cancer treatment and reconstruction,” said Sandy Allen of Grass Lake. “Just knowing that a whole team of experts met to talk about my case made me feel I was in good hands.”
Shortly after the opening of Henry Ford Allegiance Plastic Surgery in November 2017, Sandy was the first woman to have breast reconstruction here in Jackson. Being the first didn’t concern her at all, she said, because she had faith in plastic surgeon Shoshana Ambani, MD.
“I was impressed,” Sandy said. “Dr. Ambani really knows her stuff, and she has great credentials.” Sandy also appreciated that Dr. Ambani explained the risks and benefits of breast reconstruction and told her what she could realistically expect regarding appearance and recovery. “It was nice to be able to talk with a woman. Dr. Ambani understood my feelings and fears. She assured me that my desire to not only be healthy but also to feel good about my appearance was completely normal. I didn’t feel at all rushed to decide, and I felt confident in the choice I ultimately made.”
Another important player on Sandy’s team was general surgeon Phillip Frantzis, MD, who performed her biopsy and mastectomy. Sandy had had a previous cancer diagnosis that led to a lumpectomy and radiation therapy 15 years ago. Dr. Frantzis was able to clearly explain to her how the two tumors differed and why more extensive surgery was advisable now. With that information, Sandy decided to have a complete mastectomy.
Dr. Frantzis and Dr. Ambani worked in tandem with each other in the operating room, so the mastectomy and the first stage of reconstruction could be done in the same surgical session. Saving Sandy a step in the reconstruction process lowered her risk of infection, blood loss and the complications of general anesthesia—and would improve the aesthetic result. It also gave her peace of mind, knowing her breast reconstruction would be completed with just one outpatient procedure.
“Breast reconstruction is a very personal choice. I enjoy helping patients make the decision that is right for them, whether they choose reconstruction or not,” Dr. Ambani explained. “If a woman does choose to undergo reconstruction, I make a point to tell her that we will become good friends over the next year while we work on achieving her goals—all the way to the finishing touches!”
Guiding Sandy through every step of her care and helping her feel more comfortable was Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Sharon Petri, RN, who is herself a cancer survivor. “I felt like Sharon understood what I was going through,” Sandy said. “She told me to call her whenever I needed to. Sharon is very easy to talk to and she joked back and forth with my husband, which put him at ease.”
Recovery has been much easier than Sandy expected. “I was only in the hospital for two days following the mastectomy. I knew I would have to be careful for four to six weeks, but I felt like I could do absolutely anything,” she said. “I am fortunate that I did not need chemotherapy or radiation this time.”
Sandy also said she is surprised and grateful for the “huge support” and prayers she received from her family, friends and church community. “I found out that a lot of people care about me,” Sandy said. “My husband, Ken, doesn’t often express his feelings, but his concern showed how much he loves me, and that meant a lot.”
Just one month after her mastectomy, Sandy was able to volunteer for the annual pop-up charity Precious Gifts Toy Store, which provides recycled, home-made and new toys to give thousands of Jackson-area children a happier Christmas. Now four months post-surgery, Sandy looks forward to her second stage of reconstruction via outpatient surgery.
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