Many of our patients have volunteered to speak with other women who may have questions about what it is like to go through restorative breast surgery. If you would like to speak with someone who has already gone through the process, please contact us and we will find a “buddy” for you.
I’m a BRCA Patient Worried about Prophylactic Mastectomy
I was not surprised to find an irregular-feeling lump at 12 o’clock in my left breast. My mother died from breast cancer at age 54 and I had taken precautions with mammograms and self examination since age 21. I knew it would happen sooner or later.An appointment with a GP led to an appointment with a breast specialist in Kingston, NY (I live upstate). A bilateral breast MRI led to a needle biopsy confirming the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma. Another test was positive for the BRCA2 gene. I was advised to get a double mastectomy! I didn’t know what to do since my right breast was healthy now and I didn’t want to lose it. I expressed to this surgeon how much I hated to lose both breasts. She told me the probability of developing a carcinoma in the right breast was very high. My head was spinning.
Accompanied by my sister, we met with Dr. Chen in Manhattan. As luck would have it, I showed Dr. Chen an article from that day’s New York Times reporting on loss of feeling across the chest with implants. I was very concerned. I didn’t want to lose my breasts and all sensation as well. But Dr. Chen advised me that I would be reconstructed with my own fat tissue from my abdomen along with arteries so the new “breasts” would be warm and have sensation as time went on. Dr. Chen showed me photos of prior patients who had had the same procedure. They even had tatooing, as the last step, coloring the nipple and areola to look completely natural. I was so stunned. Here I was going from a scared, unknown state to one of complete perfection. There’s no other way to describe this reconstruction procedure.
After our consult, I decided to go with Dr. Chen’s choice of breast surgeon (one who is consistently top rated in her field) and proceeded to plan for the surgery date. I canceled the consult I had with another plastic surgeon upstate who specialized in implants since there was no need to see anyone else. Dr. Chen was so very personable, accommodating and informative about the whole procedure. And who wouldn’t want warm, new breast mounds instead of a saline bag being inflated over time! Dr. Chen had done corrective surgery on women who were unhappy with their implants for various reasons.After my consult with Dr. Chen, my sister and I knew this decision has become a “no brainer” and we both felt completely confident with Dr. Chen and her staff. My fears at this point were only concerned with any lymph node infiltration at the time of the mastectomies, and if I needed adjuvant therapy and what kind.
Right now, I really don’t think about my breasts that often. And the resulting abdominoplasty is quite a bonus! I can’t imagine any woman facing what I was looking at and choosing another way to go. These procedures are state of the art. Dr. Chen’s skills and interest in her patients are of the highest quality.
-R.R., Upstate NY
I’m a Dancer with Failed Implant-based Breast Reconstruction
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2009 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction in December. I am thin and was under the impression that I did not have enough fat to create two breasts. I am also a dancer and did not want to compromise my abdominal muscles. I did not know about DIEP flap surgery and that I might be a candidate for this procedure. I chose to go with implants. Unfortunately, I turned out to have a positive lymph node and required chemotherapy which I started in January of 2010. I had a complication that I knew could happen and I developed an infection in one of my breasts. My body could not fight due to the chemo and the only solution was to remove the expander in my left breast along with the part of the breast skin that was not healthy. I recovered and completed the chemo living with one breast that had an expander and was very uncomfortable, and the other side was without a breast and quite disfigured. I was anticipating further surgery to restart the implant process but my oncological surgeon advised against it. She felt that due to the prior infection, another implant (foreign body) could trigger further infection and trouble in the future. She had become familiar with Dr. Chen and the DIEP flap procedure and felt it was the answer for me. She contacted Dr. Chen about my case and I was seen by Dr. Chen almost immediately. She was amazing. She spent a lot of time explaining the entire procedure to me along with my husband, and felt that although I am thin, she would be successful in finding enough fat to create nice breasts. I was excited about the prospect of having natural breasts made from my own tissue especially after having gone through problems with implants. She explained that it is not one surgery and would be done in stages. I also knew that my complications provided a challenge. I felt very confident in her ability and was not disappointed. Not only am I now a 34C, I am able to wear clothes and dance costumes that I never could have worn before. My figure is just great and I am very comfortable in my own skin. I underwent the first surgery in May of 2010 with a second surgery in September. The surgeries went extremely well and I am thrilled with the outcome. I have one more surgery to fine tune things but that won’t be until some time this fall. Dr. Chen wants my breasts to settle before she continues. If I had to live with what I have now, it would be just fine but I have such a good feeling that Dr. Chen can further improve the appearance of my breasts that I don’t mind another surgery. She is extremely talented, and such a warm and caring woman. I will never forget her visits while I was in the hospital. She spent so much time just chatting with me when she should have gone home to get some rest. She also spent a lot of time with me at every post op visit making sure that all questions and concerns were addressed.She is a dedicated and wonderful surgeon and now a cherished friend.
-L.K., Northern NJ
I’m A Doctor Who Flew To New York from Hawaii
Dr Chen turned my losses into gain, my sadness into joy! While in medical school in Hawaii, I had felt a lump in my left breast.A few years later, mastectomy was recommended. Done. Devastated.My breasts were a small A cup before the mastectomy, barely anything to miss, right? Wrong. I was devastated at my concave chest. Nothing looked right.A colleague of mine tried to convince me to put in silicone implants, but because my skin was irradiated, there was a high chance of poor wound healing I didn’t want to risk that. I met with the most popular plastic surgeon in Hawaii, who told me of the new flaps available.I met with 2 plastic surgeons in San Francisco, CA, who seemed confident, but I could not trust them. Our classmate told me her friend married a brilliant surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. BINGO!I emailed Dr Chen and instantly knew she was an expert. Her explanations were so thorough. Her goal is perfectly reconstructed breasts. I’m so pleased with the outcome. My breasts are symmetrical, soft and beautifully shaped. Moreover, I won’t ever need to return to surgery to fix implants that leak, fail, get infected or anything else! I also have a youthful flat tummy where I once had a big pouch. I love my new body!Dr Chen promised to help me in every aspect of the way, and she kept her word. When the hospital filed the insurance claim incorrectly, I received a bill for over five thousand dollars. Dr Chen’s office worked with the hospital’s billers to rectify the situation and resolved the issue. I paid about $65 instead of thousands.Dr Chen reassures you before the surgery that she will “hold your hand every step of the way,” and honestly, I didn’t expect she would be there for me battling the insurance companies but she and her staff fixed the financial glitches long after the surgery was done.Finally, I must comment on Dr Chen’s personality. She is extremely kind, thorough, and she is able to make the complicated simple. I have already referred 2 friends and encourage you, the reader, to choose Dr Chen. You won’t be disappointed. You will be in the very best hands, literally!
Dr M.M., Hawaii
My Gynecologist Thought that My Reconstructed Breasts Were Real
Three years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought it was the end of my life. I was in shock, but thinking calmly I realized that I still had my 12 year old daughter who needed me the most. So I decided to fight and be strong. I went to my treatments with lots of courage and thank God the cancer is in remission. Originally, I did not have breast reconstruction. My final step was to do the reconstruction surgery which I came upon Dr. Chen who has done an excellent job. She is very caring and professional. I feel very lucky to have found Dr. Chen who brought back my confidence as a complete woman. In fact, after my breast reconstruction my gynecologist told me to get a mammogram, because he did not believe me when I told him that my reconstructed breasts were not real. Dr. Chen had to call him to tell him that my breasts were made from my belly tissue – he told her he knew she reconstructed one breast but he thought that I just had a breast reduction on the other breast.I encourage any woman who is going through this situation to think positive, calmly, and be strong. I recommend Dr. Chen to any woman who finds herself in my former situation because of her professionalism and best of all her caring nature.
-L.R., Queens, NYC
I Have My Own TV Show and I Love My New Breasts
I have a long history with breast cancer: my mother had been diagnosed before I was born, and I’ve always known that my risk was very high.I was finally diagnosed with the BRCA gene in 2004. By the time I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer for the third time in 2009 I was no longer a realistic candidate for another lumpectomy. What I needed was a bilateral mastectomy, and I was not a candidate for implants due to my previous radiation. I had made the decision to forgo any kind of reconstructive surgery when my surgeon recommended Dr. Chen.Although I was very, very anxious about the looming procedure. Dr. Chen was unfailingly supportive and confident. I was out of bed and walking the very next morning. The recovery was steady, and my new breasts are absolutely gorgeous. I spend a lot of time in front of the cameras and in the public eye, and the surgery couldn’t have come at a better time. I love the results, and Dr. Chen was a steady, positive, supportive presence throughout the procedure and the follow-up period.I could not be happier with my reconstruction surgery, and I highly recommend it to any woman who has had breast cancer or who is at very high risk.
-Name Withheld, Manhattan, NYC
I Must Have a Guardian Angel
My journey began with a total right mastectomy and immediate reconstruction with a tissue expander. Unfortunately, I developed a capsular contracture, and had to have the tissue expander removed.How did I find Dr. Chen? I can only say that I must have a guardian angel. I was referred to a surgeon in NYC and prior to the appointment, happened to find Dr. Chen’s business card in my wallet. I was so thrilled after meeting her, that I have since decided that the card I found was a gift for which I am very thankful.I chose Dr. Chen as my surgeon for a number of reasons. She is highly skilled, very well trained, has excellent experience, and extremely high standards.I was extremely fearful of the operation, but I overcame it by realizing that I was in excellent hands. Dr. Chen answered all my questions and allayed all my fears. My recovery, as a result, was seamless.My surgery has made me so much more comfortable with my body. I feel whole again. The outcome was excellent.I manage several medical practices (including surgery) outside NYC, and I absolutely recommend Dr. Chen to anyone needing surgery.
– E.Y., Upstate NY
I Don’t Even Feel Like I Had a Mastectomy
I had a nipple-sparing, prophylactic double mastectomy with DIEP Flap breast reconstruction performed by Dr. Chen. While I was comfortable with my decision to have surgery, I felt even more at ease after meeting with Dr. Chen. She was wonderful, explaining everything involved in the surgery. From the first office visit , I felt like I was in excellent hands. She was kind, caring and compassionate, and was very invested in making certain I would be happy with the results of the surgery. We met numerous times before the actual surgery and she explained everything to me in a way I could understand so I knew what to expect. When I awoke from surgery, the recovery room nurse actually said “I thought she had a mastectomy” (because it did not look like I had undergone a mastectomy) – my reconstructed breasts that looked that good from the start.
Thanks to Dr. Chen’s ability, I feel normal – I don’t even feel like I had a mastectomy – my breasts look and feel like regular breasts. Yet, I have the peace of mind that I took the steps I felt were necessary to be keep myself healthy.
I have never met a doctor as warm, caring and compassionate as Dr. Chen. I really feel like she wants all women to have the opportunity to be healthy without having to give up what can be an important part of their self-image. I feel grateful that I was lucky enough to find her to perform my surgery.
– S.K., Upstate NY
The Comfort I Had Looking Down After Surgery Seeing My Familiar Breasts Was a Great Relief
Dear Dr Chen & Amazing Team,
Words can’t do justice to the appreciation I have for each one of you.
Your responsiveness and high level of patient care alleviated any hassles and fears of mine. My ordeal despite a few bumps with healing wounds has been relatively smooth.
Dr. Chen, your skill and confidence as a surgeon oozes from you. I didn’t lose a drop of sleep, even the night before surgery, trusting your ability. My oncologist complicated your work. The comfort I had looking down after surgery seeing my familiar breasts was a great relief.
A special thanks to Andrea who I reached out to the most. You were over the top in service down to the smallest detail.
What stands out the most in your office is how well you all work together as a team.
– B.T., Upstate NY
I Opted to Have the PAP Flap Surgery as My Stomach Did Not Have Enough Fat or Tissue to Serve as a Good Donor Site
I opted to have the PAP flap surgery as my thighs were the best donor site. My stomach did not have enough fat or tissue to serve as a good donor site.
The reconstruction was great, but my breasts ended up being a C which was one size bigger than they had been (a B). Two years after my initial surgery, I had a breast reduction and could not be happier! I am back to exactly the way I was before I had any surgery at all – actually, I am even better and look more like I did when I was 22. My results are so outstanding, that no one who might see my breasts would ever know I had any surgery whatsoever. My gynocologist (who specializes in high risk breast cancer patients) told me that I have the best reconstruction he has seen in his career. That’s because Dr. Chen did it!
My mastectomies and reconstruction was elective as I inherited a gene that made me highly susceptible to cancer. I felt that I was better off doing the surgery while I was still healthy as opposed to waiting until the inevitable and having to go through it all while not well.
Dr. Chen is the best doctor I have ever experienced and I recommend her highly. I would never consider seeing anyone else. She is extremely meticulous and is the top of her field. But more than that, she really cares about each and every one of her patients. I have never before experienced a doctor who cares so much about his or her patients. Her staff is wonderful, too.
I also highly recommend the NY Eye and Ear Hospital which has a breast reconstruction wing. They offer private rooms to Dr. Chen’s patients. The nursing care is amazing. I had a great experience there.
My total experience was wonderful. I would do it all over again without hesitation.
– F.C., Manhattan, NYC
I Researched Surgeons and Found the Best of the Best
When I found out I was BRCA 2+, I began to research which type of prophylactic surgery to have. Once I had decided to have the DIEP procedure I went on to research surgeons. I was based in New York and I was confident I could have the best of the best. I found the surgeon in town who was the most highly recommended, whose office was super professional and who had been doing this procedure longer than anyone else. I was sure I had found my surgeon. I next heard that he couldn’t take my insurance, and although initially devastated, I quickly came to see that this was my lucky break, because the practice then recommended the wonderful Dr. Chen to me. Knowing what I know now about what makes a surgeon great, I look back on my early decision-making and my criteria for selecting a surgeon seems so misplaced. From the first day Dr. Chen became my primary surgeon she also became my advocate. With Dr. Chen I always knew someone was in my corner; with the initial surgery she challenged the surgical team to try a nipple-sparing mastectomy on hilariously large breasts and in the reconstructive surgery she encouraged her surgical partner to spend an extra hour to really make things perfect. This combination of perfectionism, ambition and dedication all translated to me being incredibly happy with the results and feeling like I really did get the best of the best. And for all this I will be eternally grateful.
But at the end of the day what I will really remember about Dr. Chen and her team is how they helped to make a really sucky time in my life seem okay. Her staff was always amazing. They were professional and efficient, but more importantly they were empathetic and thoughtful. I enjoyed turning up to the office and felt like I could ask for anything. The single most memorable image that will stick in my mind is Dr. Chen’s smiling face each time I came out of surgery. She’d be standing over me with the most inane grin buzzing with enthusiasm for how well the surgery went. I knew then, even in a drugged haze, that she loved her job and really cared about each individual patient.
I couldn’t help but wonder a few times over the 18 months I was in Dr. Chen’s care whether the fact she was a female surgeon made a difference. I am certain that there are male surgeons out there as equally talented as her, but I am not so confident that as many of them would realize that just sitting with your patient for two hours on a Friday night in hospital might be just what your patient needs. I am pleased that Dr. Chen is so dedicated, because it meant she replied to my weekend emails. I am glad I found a plastic surgeon that is such a perfectionist, because I now have breasts 10x more beautiful than they were before. I am glad that she was ambitious because I got to keep my own nipples even when it had never been done on breasts my size before (GG cup). But above all I am grateful that I found a surgeon who is compassionate and a good listener, because that meant I never felt alone or scared.
– L.G., Manhattan, NYC
Picking the Right Team
In August 2013 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I thought my world had come to an end. I feel blessed to have been referred to Dr. Chen. I am from Florida, and after my first visit to New York in early September I knew that she was the surgeon I wanted to perform my reconstruction.
Surgery was scheduled for September 16, 2013. My husband and I arrived at the hospital at 6am. The organized registration process immediately impressed us. I was shown to my room on the 7th floor very shortly thereafter. I proceeded to unpack and make myself at “home.” My room was very clean and spacious.I appreciated all the doctors coming to visit me that morning prior to surgery, and then I walked down to the operating room. Every single person was extremely courteous and helpful.
That night I remember waking up and I was wheeled to my room. I have worked as a Pharmacist in hospitals since 1988. I have been in hospital for minor procedures and to deliver my two children. I have never been in the situation where I’m not capable of doing anything for myself. My nurses were always willing to help, and I felt confident that I was in good hands. DIEP flap surgery requires specialized nursing and it was evident to me that my nurses were well trained to take care of me.I was very stressed because I’m used to being in control and I really feel that my experience would have been very different without these wonderful nurses. I noticed that the doctors and nurses had a mutual respect for one another, which is not commonly seen. In talking with the nurses, they spoke so highly of my doctors.I was amazed at the years of service most of them had. In addition, Dr. Chen spoke highly of them, telling me that without skilled nurses she cannot be successful. This working relationship is very unique in hospitals today.
My last two days in hospital were easier than the first two. I enjoyed talking to the nurses when they were taking care of me and I realized that they all loved working at the hospital. This is not seen in many hospitals today, there is usually a high turnover of nurses, resulting in use of Agency Nurses and constant retraining. This usually results in medication errors and unhappy patients. Even the man who delivered my food every day seemed genuinely happy to see me finally eating, it made me want to eat more!
I could go on forever talking about the amazing experience I had with Dr. Chen. Her team really has what it takes to make this difficult time so much easier to deal with. I actually felt sad leaving the hospital and saying goodbye to everyone.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer forces us to embark on a journey, but it’s the people we meet along the way who care for us that determine the outcome of this journey, both physically and emotionally. Dr. Chen and her wonderful team made this a positive outcome for me. I hope you all continue to do this for many more women faced with this terrible disease.
You Head Up the Best Nursing Staff
Just a note to let you know that I believe you head up the best nursing staff I have ever been around. My wife had a really long surgery on January 5, 2012. From the recovery room through Sunday, January 8, 2012 late evening your nurses were professional, kind, and really in the know as to how to take care of flaps. I am terrible with names but I’m sure you can see who was working those days and nights. Each shift informed the next exactly the condition of my wife, and I was really impressed. We were very pleased with every single nurse that worked with us. Please tell all of them Thank You!!!
– L.W., West Virginia
You Were the Consummate Physician
I greatly appreciate all that you did for my daughter, her boyfriend, and me last week following my daughter’s prophylactic bilateral mastectomies and reconstructive surgery. It was truly a frightening time for us. You were the consummate physician – knowledgeable, compassionate, patient, and kind. Your calm, expert demeanor and willingness to hear the patient’s symptoms and concerns were immensely reassuring to each of us. As a physician myself, I told my daughter and her boyfriend that you are certainly the paradigm for what a physician should be.
Thank you again, Dr. Chen. You will always be remembered by us as an outstanding physician who helped us in a time of great need.
G.W.S., MD, Wisconsin
You Made Something So Bad Almost Seem Like It Never Happened
Because of you, you made something so bad almost seem like it never happened, except that I feel stronger & more confident than ever before. Because of you, I still have me but better. I am forever grateful for the hard work, determination and even perfection you gave towards me.
J. S., Upstate NY
I Never Was Afraid of What I Would Have to Endure
There are no words to express how grateful I am for everything you have done and will continue to do for me. You helped me through one of the hardest, most emotional times in my life and I never was afraid of what I would have to endure. Thank you for being such a caring doctor and taking wonderful care of me & my family. Thank you for my life.
– P.T., Long Island, NY