CHARLOTTE, N.C. – One local woman allowed NewsChannel 36 behind the scenes as she underwent life-changing surgery recently, a surgery years ago she never thought was possible.
She has lived the past 17 years with just one breast.
“It makes you feel less than a woman. You’re always self conscious about how you look, but you find a way to make it work,” she said.
The single mother of two was just 24 years old and living in Hickory at the time when she went in for minor surgery.
“I went in to have what I thought was a cyst removed and when they woke me up they said they found cancer and they were going to have to take me back into surgery to remove the breast,” she noted. “Everything happened so fast, I was confused.”
Her doctor back then never mentioned the possibility of reconstructive surgery.
“It wasn’t offered to me at the time,” she said.
But now it’s a common practice for breast cancer survivors.
Dr. Jean-Pierre Riou is a Cornelius plastic surgeon and reconstructed Tammy's breast.
He also recorded the procedures to post on his website to help better inform people about the procedure.
“Our main focus on this video series is to expose these breast cancer patients and their courageous journey,” Dr Riou said.
He recorded a year ago when he did the first surgery on Tammy, rebuilding her breast. Now a year later, he rebuilt her nipple.
“I had to do something. I couldn’t keep living with it. I had to regain some confidence back,” Tammy said.
What happened to Tammy is common. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates seven in 10 mastectomy patients don’t know their options.
“I was never offered reconstructive surgery. I don’t know why. I didn’t know much because I didn’t know I had cancer, so I didn’t have time to research,” Tammy noted.
Now 17 years later, she underwent the life-changing surgery she never knew was possible.
“It’s a whole new world for me. Things I couldn’t wear before I can wear now. I just feel good about the way I look.”