Each day, we speak with women who have battled cancer and are continuing to thrive. Our latest survivor spotlight has a special connection to breast prostheses, and not just because she wears them daily.
For Gretchen Anderson Frederking, beating cancer is just one aspect of her life—she is also a Minnesota native, wife of 31 years, and mother to two grown children.
Gretchen was able to conquer her breast cancer diagnosis with the help of her experience as a mastectomy fitter, where she met breast cancer survivors each and every day. Discover how Gretchen’s experience has shaped her outlook on life and why she chose not to undergo a breast reconstruction after her mastectomy.
When and how was your breast cancer discovered? What was the diagnosis?
My breast cancer was found in July of 2011 during a routine mammogram. I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and it was not staged, meaning I had 5 or 6 cancer cells.
How did you and your family deal with the news?
At that time, I was working at the Women’s Pavilion in Rogers, Arkansas, as a mastectomy fitter and saw at least 5 (if not 10) ladies a day that were survivors, so it was easier for me than it might be for others to deal with the news.
What kind of treatment did you seek, and was it successful?
I started chemo in September 2011 and I was scheduled for 4 chemo sessions. In October, we found out that I was BRCA2 positive and would need a double mastectomy.
In November (Thanksgiving) my mother died of ovarian cancer in Minnesota. I was lucky to be in Minnesota for her death. So, December was rough. Between chemo treatments, my mom’s memorial, and Christmas in Kansas with my husband’s family, I was numb, to say the least. My last chemo session was December 28, 2011.
What were your thoughts when you decided not to undergo a breast reconstruction?
My mastectomy was scheduled for March 3, 2012. I opted not to have reconstruction at that time, because working with and fitting mastectomy customers, I saw the good and the bad reconstructions. I did not think I was in the right frame of mind to make a decision about reconstruction.
Did you try off-the-shelf breast forms before getting custom breast forms? What would you say is the main difference between the two?
I currently wear custom forms from ContourMed and have had 2 different sets and wear them 95% of the time. Occasionally, I wear regular silicone prostheses when I am wearing a camisole that requires prostheses to be inserted in the pockets. My insurance covers the cost of custom prostheses at 100%, so I tried them and love the way they fit to my body and the natural way they feel.
Would you recommend ContourMed custom breast forms to another woman who has had breast cancer?
I would recommend that all breast cancer patients try custom, off-the-shelf forms, and all other options so that they have educated knowledge of the options there are.
What is a piece of advice you would give another woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis?
My advice to other patients would be to take your time— reconstruction is an option at any time and does not have to be completed at the time of the mastectomy. I am very happy with myself the way that I am, using custom prostheses. I no longer consider cancer as being a part of my life; it is over and done with and I am going on with my life.
Thanks to her personal resiliency and her background working with breast cancer survivors, Gretchen was able to thrive in adversity. If you are wondering about your options after a mastectomy, visiting with a consultant at ContourMed is a great way to discover which custom breast forms are suitable for your lifestyle. If you are interested in learning more about your custom breast form options, please contact ContourMed today at 501-214-6080.