DIEP Flap Surgery: Cari’s Breast Reconstruction Journey

When navigating the journey of life-saving treatments for breast cancer, the option to undergo reconstructive surgery is personal and unique to every individual. Depending on each patient’s circumstances, there are several reconstruction options, including implant-based reconstruction, Aesthetic Flat Closure, or DIEP Flap Reconstruction. With a DIEP Flap Surgery, skin and fat are taken from the abdomen and transplanted to the chest, often resulting in a more natural look and feel, since the tissue used for the surgery is the patient’s own. Cari Sherlock came to Dr. Potter for her breast reconstruction surgery and decided that DIEP Flap Surgery was her best choice.

After finding a lump in her breast, Cari Sherlock quickly sought cancer treatment. During her treatment, Cari spoke with her oncology surgeon and decided to work with Dr. Potter and her team because of her reputation and experience with DIEP Flap procedures. She felt like the right decision for her was to have a double mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy, and then move forward with DIEP Flap Reconstruction. Dr. Potter’s caring attitude and confidence in her abilities put Cari at ease. She said, “If I were to draw up my version of a perfect plastic surgeon, it would be her. She’s just grounded and confident.” The chemistry she felt with Dr. Potter helped play a role in Cari’s decision to put her care in Dr.Potter’s hands, as well as her “really good team.” It was clear to Cari that Dr. Potter had hand selected her team, and that made a “huge difference” to her when making a decision regarding her breast reconstruction. DIEP Flap Surgery allows the reconstructed breasts to have a natural appearance, because tissue is taken from the stomach. This is often viewed as an added benefit for those who chose this option. Cari has had two children, and as a result, she had some weight gain in her stomach area that was used in the surgery. The tissue taken from the lower abdomen is transplanted to the chest using a technique called microsurgery. “My stomach is flatter now,” she noted, “so that is a benefit…a positive side effect.” With this procedure, an additional benefit is that the risks of hernia or bulge are minimized, which are risks with alternative methods. Cari felt that a natural approach was right for her because she didn’t want anything foreign in her body.

Dr. Potter is specially qualified in DIEP Flap Reconstruction and considers this procedure her specialty. She has extensive experience with DIEP Flap Reconstruction, having performed over 900 in her career. Knowing that Dr. Potter has performed such a high volume of the DIEP Flap procedures gave Cari a sense of comfort, especially because during the process, Dr. Potter would tell her, “that’s what I would recommend to my sister.” In developing treatment plans, Dr. Potter and her team are guided by the “sister test”, where any recommendations given to patients line up with what she would advise for her own family.

Throughout the process, Cari felt like Dr. Potter and her team addressed any fears or concerns involving DIEP Flap Reconstruction with patience and confidence. She came to each appointment “with a list of questions,” and “never felt rushed.” Cari felt that the team was direct and knowledgeable, and said, “If I had a question, they had an answer and if they didn’t, they would say, ‘I’ll find out for you.’” At her last appointment before surgery, Cari expressed her nervous feelings, and Dr. Potter alleviated her worries, letting her know that it was okay to be nervous, but she was safe with her and her team.

Even when the post-surgery healing process is comparatively “uneventful”, like in Cari’s case, there is still a great amount of healing to be done both physically and emotionally. Taking time for self-care, such as meditating and giving yourself the space and time to heal, is an important part of the journey. Cari said that she tried to get in “as much self-care” as she could, and that “there are going to be days where this brings you to your knees…and that’s natural. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It’s hard.”

The experience of breast cancer and Reconstruction is one that shouldn’t be faced alone. There are communities of women who have been through reconstructive surgery and are available for support. Dr. Potter’s BRAVE Facebook group is a place for women who have had or are considering breast reconstructive surgery. Cari believes that “community is huge” when undergoing such a difficult season. Following surgery, she was able to extend the knowledge she received from Dr. Potter and her team to others. “So many amazing women have gone before me,” she said, “it’s hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but it’s also kind of an honor.” Wherever breast reconstruction fits into one’s cancer treatment, Dr. Potter and her practice are there to support each patient to make the choice that’s right for them.

To learn more about DIEP flap surgery recovery time, what to expect after breast reconstruction and options for breast reconstruction, send us an email. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. To connect with other women who have had, plan to have or are considering breast reconstruction surgery, Dr. Potter’s Breast Reconstruction And Virtual Empowerment (BRAVE) Facebook Group is available to join and we also have a list of resources that may be helpful.