Simpson Moy, a breast cancer survivor, wants women to know there
are alternatives to reconstructive surgery other than implants.
If there's one thing breast cancer survivor Laura Simpson
Moy wants women to
know about reconstructive surgery, it's that there are
options out there.
"There's other procedures available to women that
aren't in Maine and may
better suit many women's needs," Moy said. "Plastic
surgeons may not
necessarily want to tell you about them because they
like to keep a lot of
the business in Maine."
Her search for treatment landed Moy in Louisiana to
find a doctor who could
reconstruct both of her breasts without using artificial
implants such as
saline and silicone, alternatives she had tried before.
After discovering a lump in the front of her right
breast in 1993 at the age
of 33, Moy, who currently works as the executive director
Zoom Turnpike Express, went to the doctor and was diagnosed
with the first
stage of breast cancer.
Moy opted to have one mastectomy because she was told
the cancer was in its
early stages and was 97 percent curable. But after the
operation, she wasn't
"Right after that, I looked in the mirror and
said this looks terrible," Moy
said, adding that she decided to have a second mastectomy
for preventive and
She was faced with many options for reconstructive
surgery and was told by
area plastic surgeons that implants were safe, so she
went ahead with
procedure, instead of another process called the TRAM
The TRAM flap is an operation that takes stomach muscles
and tunnels them up
through the chest, according to Moy, then later "pops"
them out in the form
of a breast. That wasn't Moy's first choice, because
she said, the procedure
takes everything but one percent of your sit-up muscle.
Moy's first round of implants were made of saline,
or salt water and felt
hard and uncomfortable. She then made the switch to
silicon implants and
those turned out to be somewhat softer, but still didn't
feel real or like
Four and a half years after her diagnosis, Moy went
into see her plastic
surgeon for a check-up and a pink spot, or local reoccurrence,
was found on
her skin, prompting a round of chemotherapy and radiation.
"This time they didn't want to fool around,"
Moy recalled. "They wanted to
do radiation and I was really weary."
Moy's doctors decided to move forward with the radiation
her silicone implants, an action that accelerated the
rate of scar tissue
and had adverse affects on her body.
At that point, Moy decided to strike out on her own
to find an alternative
to implant reconstruction.
"I had enough," Moy said. "I just started
to look at other ways to do this.
No one around here knew much about it."
It was within the last year that Moy describes things
That is when she found the DIEP flap procedure and
its founder Dr. Bob Allen
of the Center for Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction
in New Orleans,
"When I was looking around at the landscape for
breast reconstruction in the
1980s, the choices were very limited," Allen said.
"It was the TRAM flap or
According to Allen, who has performed more than 1,600
operations since 1992
when he first started the procedure, the TRAM flap process
is more exciting
to the plastic surgery community than to the women involved.
"It was euphoria," Allen said. "But
the poor patients [suffer] severe pain
and there is a significant bulge or outright hernia
and weakness. So we were
trying to come up with a better way."
The DIEP flap procedure, or Deep Inferior Epigastric
Perforator, is a
process of opening up the belly, grabbing its excess
fat on top of the
abdominal muscle, extracting veins and moving it all
to the breast area for
The biggest difference between the TRAM flap and the
DIEP flap, according to
Allen, is that the DIEP flap leaves the abdominal muscle
and takes only the
excess fat and blood vessels.
"The muscle was taken as an innocent bystander,"
Allen said of the process.
According to the Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction
website, "flap" is a
plastic surgery term referring to the tissue that will
A large, horizontal scar around the abdominal area
and a recreated belly
bottom are results of the procedure.
"Sensory nerves have the ability to regenerates
over time," Allen said
noting the blood network will start to rebuild itself
shortly after the
operation. "Most people get some feelings back.
Over time the results tend
to get better and better."
Allen, who said the cost of the procedure is dependent
upon a patient's
insurance plan, costing roughly around $2,300 when the
procedure is covered.
But, under federal law, according to Allen, insurance
companies are required
to cover reconstructive surgery in cases like Moy's.
"Now, I have two soft breasts that look like breasts
and feel like breasts,"
Moy said adding that she never fully accepted her implants
as her own. "I'm
sure there are women who differ from me."
It has only been six weeks since Moy has had the DIEP
procedure and said
although the first 10 days after the operation she had
pain, she was able to walk around the day after her
surgery. Now she is
"I think when a woman loses a breast she loses
a lot more than a breast,"
said Moy. "When a man has prostate cancer treatment,
when he loses his
sexual or urinary function, he loses more than that.
People need to look for
the frontier sciences and participate in finding the
best fit for themselves
because they are there."
"If I had known then, what I know now, I would
have gone that route and
saved myself a lot of suffering," Moy said.
By Liz Gold, Senior Staff Writer
Posted Week of March 27 - 31, 2005