Comfortable and Confident After Reconstruction at 28

Breast cancer patient Missy McCoy feels like herself again

Missy McCoyMissy McCoy thought she knew what to expect from the reconstructive surgery she had after her mastectomy. Breast cancer runs in her family, so she’d seen the results before. But she was pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed when the bandages were briefly removed after surgery to give her a quick look.

“I remember gasping and thinking ‘Oh my God, they look amazing,’” Missy said.

Missy, who was diagnosed in 2015 at age 28, found her cancer early, thanks to the advice of a fertility specialist she was seeing at The University of Kansas Health System. Upon learning of Missy’s family history, the doctor recommended she undergo frequent screenings for breast cancer.

After a year of monitoring, a lump was spotted in Missy’s left breast and a biopsy confirmed cancer. She was referred to plastic surgeon Eric Lai, MD.

Meeting patient expectations

“When I first went in, Dr. Lai gave me the options and let me choose what I thought was best for me,” she said. “He was concerned about how I was feeling and what I expected from the surgery, and he wanted to be sure I would be happy.” Missy chose a bilateral nipple-sparing mastectomy after discussing her options with Dr. Lai.

“It’s important to listen to patients and understand their priorities with regard to their reconstruction, so I can help them reach the point where they are comfortable with the surgery,” Dr. Lai said. Missy didn’t need radiation, so implants were the option that would let her quickly move on with the rest of her life. Dr. Lai says she had “an excellent cosmetic result.”

Missy had the first stage of reconstruction at the time of her mastectomy, when Dr. Lai inserted tissue expanders. Then, as a precautionary measure, Missy had four rounds of chemotherapy before returning to Dr. Lai six months later to complete the reconstruction. While many women opt for a larger breast size, Missy’s goal was simple.

“I just wanted to feel like myself in my clothes and be comfortable again in my own skin,” she said. She describes Dr. Lai as “wonderful all the way around.” She said his staff is equally caring and attentive, recalling the time she needed emergency care when one of her wounds opened.

“I called them late in the afternoon and they stayed until I got there at 6:30 p.m., so they could take care of it right away and prevent major scarring,” said Missy, who is from of Garden City, Mo., about one hour south of Kansas City. “Dr. Lai and his nurse both went above and beyond to make sure everything looked good.”

Expert care, easy access

Having first come to the health system with infertility issues, Missy has since received care from many specialists within the organization. She said she’s grateful for the referrals, and for convenient access to the expertise she needs in one place.

“Our patients get fellowship-trained surgeons who focus on diagnosis, management, treatment and reconstruction. Breast cancer is our sole focus – and it’s not just one expert. It’s a team of specialists, which means our patients have access to multiple opinions and every type of breast cancer treatment,” Dr. Lai said.

Missy said what she appreciated most was the blend of genuine concern and straightforward advice.

“Every doctor I’ve seen truly cares for you, and that’s a great feeling. At the same time, they’re very straightforward. They gave me the facts and told me what needed to be done so I could move on with my life. That’s what people want, and that’s what I got from The University of Kansas Cancer Center and The University of Kansas Health System.”