Reflections on 2020

At Dr. Elisabeth Potter’s practice, our patients are always our priority. While this year has been challenging in many ways, it provided an opportunity for us to be even more present and engaged with our patients. If ever there was a time to prioritize self-care, 2020 was it and we are honored to be a part of each patient’s journey. Advocates for wellness, we were able to help many patients strengthen the connection between mind, body and skin this year. 

Mind 

With many traditional forms of entertainment temporarily out of the picture, two in three Americans said COVID-19 allowed them time to escape into new hobbies, such as baking, crafting, gardening, reading/writing and even car mechanics, for over six hours every week, according to a OnePoll study. Important for exercising one’s mental health, one of the missing aspects of these newfound hobbies was connection. Fortunately, phone calls, video chats, telehealth calls and virtual support groups were among some of the ways that individuals were able to safely contact loved ones, friends and even their healthcare providers. 

 Many resources near and dear to our practice offered virtual support for women dealing with breast cancer this year, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, including:

  •  Twist Out Cancer’s “Brushes with Cancer” virtual art show and art therapy-focused workshops called “Twistshops” 
  •  BreastCancer.org’s special care reports for COVID-19, which included specific, timely podcasts and webinars
  •  Breast Cancer Resource Center’s virtual support groups for patients of various stages and ages, virtual telethon and fundraiser, and blog articles featuring patient stories and expert insights

 Recognizing the opportunity to help patients connect with one another for peer-to-peer support, we launched Dr. Potter’s Breast Reconstruction And Virtual Empowerment (BRAVE) Group on Facebook, where patients who have had, plan to have or are considering breast reconstruction can connect along their journey. We were also happy to connect with patients via video call, social media, YouTube Lives and Dr. Potter’s blogs to communicate COVID-19 practice protocols and remain in touch. 

 Seeing and speaking with our clients has boosted our own mental states, as well, and we are grateful that we’ve been able to help our patients feel safe and supported. When we designed our office space a few years ago, it was our intention to make it feel calming and welcoming. Nothing has changed today, besides that our friendly smiles are now replaced with a “smize,” or smile with the eyes, and our patients are often donned in their best apparel, seizing the opportunity to dress up when leaving the house. 

 Body

The increase in time spent at home has also encouraged 40% of Americans to cook more, according to the FMI Foundation. While some have joked that quarantine has been an endless cycle of cooking, home-cooked meals are generally linked to a more nutritious diet with higher fruit and vegetable intake. This increase in eating foods that nourish the body, in addition to staying hydrated by drinking between 30 to 50 ounces of water a day, has helped many people feel more healthy and clear minded. As a sedentary lifestyle with too much sitting can affect our health, individuals found and adopted new ways to safely exercise and spend time outdoors. This includes, biking around the neighborhood, hiking and running. Fitness and exercise equipment also experienced a surge in interest of 437% during Q1 2020, according to Yelp data

Helping patients with breast cancer build healthy habits, Sami Mansfield, cancer exercise specialist and founder of Cancer Wellness for Life, shares a few simple physical activities that can keep patients active (under guidance of their doctor): 

  • Taking short walks daily with necessary breaks 
  • Moving around for five minutes every hour instead of sitting for long periods of time
  • Engaging in gentle stretches 

Taking the time to listen to our bodies and make healthy habits sets us up to feel good in our day-to-day, as well as boosts the immune system. One habit to implement into this new year is taking the time to “feel it on the first,” and conduct self breast exams monthly. Best performed days after menstruation ends, checks should consist of: 

  • Physical Exams – Keep the opposite hand flat and together, pressing down with light to firm pressure on the opposite breast and armpit area to feel for lumps, thickening, hardened knots or any other breast changes.
  • Visual Exams – Look to ensure breasts are: their usual size, shape and color. Inspect for any new redness, rash, dimpling, nipple discharge or crusting.

Dealing with breast cancer at any time can be overwhelming, but this year’s events have presented additional challenges. We want to recognize each of our brave patients for continuing to persevere through their journey and we are proud to be part of their response to a diagnosis or preventative measure. With the goal of treating each patient like family, we’ve carefully guided each patient through treatment plans that are best for them and that we’d recommend to our own sister. “In the midst of devastating news, it can feel like your world is swept out from under your feet,” Dr. Potter says. “Then you start to get some ground back and we’re asking, ‘What do you want? Not telling you that you have to have X, Y or Z.” It’s an honor to be able to educate and empower patients on the advanced breast reconstructive options, such as DIEP flap surgery, aesthetic flat closure and implant-based reconstruction using smooth shell implants filled with silicone or saline, available to them and up to them to choose. 

Skin 

Beauty is skin deep. This may not be a phrase that comes to mind when thinking of plastic surgery, but to us it couldn’t be more true. Our practice is focused on helping patients feel their personal best and achieve their own standard of beauty, not someone else’s. With a gentle approach yet firm stance, we never want to make our patients look like someone else. Instead, we want to bring out their own unique beauty. When a patient comes in and says she looks tired, but she feels great, we gladly help bridge that disconnect, whether that’s achieved with a facial, laser treatment, injectable or microneedling. If a patient is struggling with low self-esteem, we listen and recommend mental health services to heal patients from the inside, before pursuing aesthetic measures. Talking to our patients allows us to connect with them on a deeper level. We always start our consultations off by asking how they want to feel. “It’s not always about how you look, but how you want to feel. Approaching it from a different standard of beauty is empowering,” Dr. Potter says. 

With more individuals working remotely and staying home often, patients have said they’re not as worried about any small down time or slight bruising in appearance as they heal from body cosmetic surgery or aesthetic treatments, such as chemical peels. To keep our patients safe during COVID-19, we’ve temporarily paused the usage of ablative lasers, such as the Halo and Contour TRL, due to the plume that they release into the air. Taking special care to offer timely procedures that meet COVID-19 regulations, some of our December to January seasonal specials include: 

  • Procedures to treat “text neck,” which may occur from looking down at our phones, laptops and tablets: One free Epionce Intensive Nourishing Cream with a Morpheus8 Radio Frequency Microneedling treatment and Juvederm Volbella Hyaluronic Acid (HA) Filler and Botox Cosmetic package
  • Rejuvenating skin treatments to combat cooler weather: a complimentary HydraFacial with the purchase of a Fotofacial face treatment, and complimentary Secret Santa skin care goodies with the purchase of two Epionce products

We genuinely appreciate our patients’ flexibility in navigating through guidelines outside of the norm this year and sharing their stories with us. The connections we’ve built with our patients, this year especially, will last a lifetime and we’re so grateful to have been in their corners, advocating for them. “We aim to put good energy into the world. I do that in my own life,” Dr. Potter shares. “If you’re dealing with patients, you’re either helping them or you’re not, and I couldn’t imagine not helping them.” As we head into a new year, we look forward to continuing to keep our patients safe and offering advanced aesthetic, cosmetic and reconstructive options that make our patients feel like their best and truest selves.