Carol’s story: Reconstruction results ‘just as good’ 10 years later
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
“The writing is on the wall,” Carol Matuszak solemnly said to her husband, Gary, after she received news about the need to return for a second mammogram.
The year was 2005. Carol had gone in for a routine mammogram. She had found breast lumps before but the request to return for a second mammogram was unusual. Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer in her right breast.
She opted for a lumpectomy – a surgical procedure that removes the cancerous tissue or lump from the breast. Radiation therapy followed.
Carol’s breast shrunk due to radiation. Her cancer doctor recommended Dr. Steven Schmidt, plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic.
“Radiation therapy as well as a lumpectomy can cause serious distortions in a breast that can often present the patient with very serious complications such as significant size discrepancy, shape discrepancy and areas of contour irregularity,” Schmidt says.
Carol’s left breast was two to three times larger than her right breast.
The significant size difference resulted in severe back pain, affected her gait and indirectly caused issues with the bones in her right foot. She was a size 44DD on her left breast and about a size 39 or 40 on her right breast, she says.
Carol opted to have breast reconstruction surgery with Dr. Schmidt on October 1, 2010.
Federal law mandates coverage of breast reconstruction for most breast cancer patients, even if the reconstruction is delayed until after cancer treatment is completed.
“I went home the same day … by the end of October I was raking leaves, I was lifting and was right back to normal,” Carol says. “I was very, very happy with (Dr. Schmidt). He had this big smile and his eyes twinkled, you knew he was a happy man and he just made you feel relaxed.
However, there was also another discovery.
Cancer cells were found in Carol’s left breast during her procedure. This was a surprise to Carol. She had no idea that her other breast had become cancerous.
Carol credits Dr. Schmidt with saving her life.
Since Carol’s procedure, she no longer suffers from severe back pain and looks forward to clothes shopping, she says.
“My son was getting married before I had cancer and I thought I was going to be wearing a bath robe to the wedding,” she says. “I was even looking for a seamstress to help me. We just shopped and shopped. To this day I can’t tell you what I even wore. I can tell you I wasn’t very happy with it.”
She has since found a new love for shopping and if she had to have reconstruction surgery again, she wouldn’t hesitate, she says.
“I would strongly recommend it because it boosts your ego, you feel better about yourself and you match.”
Over 10 years later, Carol’s breasts look just as good as they did when Dr. Schmidt completed her procedures, she says.
“I have not had any unusual pain, I’m still very happy. When I see his face on the Internet it just makes me smile because he was just the nicest surgeon and I felt very, very comfortable with him and he made me feel at ease.”