The saying, “it takes a village,” applies to many aspects of life and a breast cancer diagnosis is no exception. In a moment where time may seem to simultaneously stand still and speed up all at once, the greatest thing a patient can do when ready is assemble their “village,” or treatment team. This may consist of a breast surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and a reconstructive surgeon. Physical therapists, nutritionists and therapists may also be included to cater to a patient’s overall wellness and mental health, as well. To help patients and their families along the breast cancer journey, we’ve gathered a list of resources that may be helpful.
Cancer Rehab Austin is a specialty outpatient oncology rehab and integrative medicine clinic in Austin. Oncology rehabilitation is a type of therapy that addresses the unique needs of individuals undergoing or recovering from breast cancer surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and helps individuals achieve improved physical function during and after treatment. By utilizing manual techniques and gentle exercises, physical therapy may assist in improving tissue quality, endurance, motion circulation and pain reduction. Cancer Rehab Austin also offers coaching services to help with emotional healing, reduce stress and improve quality of life.
The Flatwater Foundation is an additional resource that provides access to mental health support for families and individuals in need who have been touched by a cancer diagnosis. The foundation partners with local cancer centers and nonprofits to help families navigate therapy and pay for care. Resources include the CORE PROGRAM, which works with Referral Agents at top cancer institutions and organizations, including Texas Oncology, the BCRC and Austin Cancer Centers, to identify and place those in need of care into long-term counseling with Flatwater care providers. They also offer Equine Assisted Counseling (EAC), which is a form of counseling that incorporates horses within a therapeutic environment to support emotional growth and healing.
Wonders & Worries is a resource that empowers parents affected by breast cancer with tools and strategies to support their children. The foundation facilitates coping for children navigating their parents’ illness with tools that include: age-appropriate understanding of illness and treatments/side effects, strategies for expressing feelings related to changes in the family, skills for coping with a range of emotions (stress, anger, sadness, fear) and connections to peers sharing similar experiences. Individual sessions, group sessions, monthly check-in meetings and parenting classes are just some of the services that Wonders & Worries provides.
The Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas (BCRC) believes no individual should have to face cancer alone. Whether patients are newly diagnosed, in treatment, post treatment or living with cancer, the BCRC is a place where individuals affected by breast cancer can ask questions, explore options and connect with a diverse community who can relate in a way no one else can. A staple in the community for more than 20 years, they are available to provide guidance, education and assistance to empower those affected by breast cancer. All of their programs and services are offered free of charge to anyone affected by breast cancer regardless of income, ethnicity, education, sexual orientation or social support.
The mission at Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery (AiRs) is to “be a resource and support system for the women who have had mastectomies as a result of breast cancer or BRCA+ genetic mutations.” As part of their mission, AiRS provides education on reconstruction options and assistance with the cost of reconstructive surgery. The alliance offers grants for those who have undergone a mastectomy as well as resources for patients who may need assistance beyond the scope of their foundation. Patient education available on their website include insurance and costs, mastectomy options, reconstruction options and skin care.
As a plastic surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction, Dr. Elisabeth Potter guides patients through the breast reconstruction options available to them. These options may include implant-based reconstruction, DIEP Flap surgery (natural reconstruction that uses a woman’s own tissue to recreate a breast) and an aesthetic flat closure, in which the tissues of the chest are closed as smoothly as possible without an implant or added natural tissue. Dr. Potter offers free in-person consultations to patients who are able to come into her office and virtual meetings for those living outside the Austin area.
Breast reconstruction is a very personal choice that an individual may consider when affected by breast cancer. To ensure that patients are able to connect with someone who can more closely understand and relate to what they’re going through, our practice created the Breast Reconstruction and Virtual Empowerment, or BRAVE, Facebook Group. This peer support group is available for all patients who have had, plan to have or are considering breast reconstruction surgery to join and openly discuss their feelings, and experiences, and ask questions. A place of advocacy for one another, the group is built upon safety, compassion and woman-to-woman empowerment.
We hope that these resources are helpful to building a strong support system along the breast cancer journey. Please do not hesitate to contact our office for more information or to discuss breast reconstruction.