Keri's Breast Cancer Story: Keri Prepares for Her Upcoming Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Doug Haberstroh Health Guide
  • My wife Keri Haberstroh was 25 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. My name is Doug, and I am here to tell Keri's story from start to finish. It was what Keri would have wanted.


    At this point, Keri had recently finished her second round of chemotherapy. The next step was to complete her breast reconstruction. The end was finally in sight, and we were both looking forward to the future.



    Subject: Update

    Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:04 AM



    Hello Everyone,


    I thought I would start with letting you all in on my New Year's resolution... I want to remember all the important lessons that I have learned throughout the past year and continue to make them a part of my life. There are so many of them that I can't even list them and there are probably still some that I haven't even realized that I've learned yet, but I think it's important that I keep them with me from now on.


    Since things are coming to a close now I have had some time to reflect back on what I have gone through and I can see the changes that have been made in myself. These changes (granted they stem from a bad situation) all seem to be good changes...including the weight that I have gained recently.


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    To fill you in on where we are now, my treatments were completed about a month ago. It is so nice not to be poisoned anymore. I have had tests done to check on many things since then. I had some blood work done, a chest x-ray, a mammogram (for you ladies this was a "fun" event), and multiple ultrasounds. Everything has come back clear.


    The doctors seem to be taking extra care with me now and double-checking everything. I have had some check-ups with doctors recently and have been told that I am doing great. My oncologist says I don't need to see him again until April. I see that as a good sign. My surgeon says he only needs to check on me before I have my last surgery.


    Speaking of last surgery, I have been going to see my plastic surgeon more often lately. To remind you what I have in right now is called a "tissue expander" which is not normally used as a permanent implant. It is a temporary implant that is used to stretch the skin slowly to make both sides equal in size. The doctor just adds some saline through a syringe and it expands thus stretching the skin. This is the stage that I am at right now.


    It is a little uncomfortable for a few days afterwards and the last time it caused a little back pain as well. I do keep in mind though that what I go through now will make things easier for me after the surgery and it's nothing compared to what I've already been through. Telling myself all that and keeping in mind that we are almost at the end of all this helps me get through the small pain. I have been told that we will be adding more saline at least one more time, which is actually this afternoon, and then we will be able to talk about surgery.


    This last surgery will be taking care of everything in one shot. Which is better than having multiple surgeries. They will be removing the tissue expander and putting in a permanent implant which will make things look and feel more normal. They will also be reconstructing a nipple, which involves a skin graft from a different spot on my body and again will make things look more normal. Finally, they will also be removing my port.


    Because they are doing all of that in one surgery I will be admitted and stay overnight in the hospital, but they only expect me to need the one night. I have been reassured that this surgery will be less intense than the last surgery. The part I like the most is that it should not involve my arm at all so at least I will still be able to use it normally. After this surgery I am under the assumption that everything will be done and I will be finally at the stage where check-ups are all I have to do.


    What a relief. I can't even explain how it feels to be able to talk about normal future things instead of so many cancer-related things. Sometimes I feel like I got a second chance at life, a clean slate to start on.

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    Speaking of normal things...I am back to searching for a job. I have a couple of trips that I will be taking soon so I will not be looking to work until next school year. Doug and I are still planning to go to Disney World in April and when we get back from that trip I should be in a good place to start putting out resumes and doing interviews.


    April is also the usual time when the jobs for the next school year start showing up on the job list. I am hoping to get in some time to work before we move from here. As is with the Air Force, we got ourselves all excited about possibly moving to Germany, but have recently been hearing that it is less likely and we need to have a back-up place that we want to go.


    Doug has had suggested to him that it may be a good time to return back to Tinker. This of course is something that we would also be excited about. We would love to be back in Oklahoma and close to family again. Of course we are too far out from moving to know for certain where we will be going, but we are close enough to be talking about it and to be hearing things about possible places. I keep forgetting that until we have orders in hand, nothing is certain, and sometimes it's not even certain when you do have the orders. So we'll see what happens and we will certainly keep you all posted.


    Life is getting back to normal. Doug is not having to go with me to as many doctor's appointments which is allowing him to sort of get back to his job. They have a few classes that he is needing to attend which of course are not held here so he will be gone for a couple of weeks soon.


    His first TDY is at the end of this month for two weeks in Atlanta. He is also starting his Master's and has one class that begins tonight. He goes once a week from 5:00-10:00 Yuck! But the class ends in early March. So for me I am trying to find some crafts and things to work on while I have some time without him around.


    Well, there's not too much else to update on. Oh except my is growing back. It will be exciting to see exactly what it will do. So far it is a nice brunette color and seems to be quite thick. It is about a half inch long which makes it look like a cute little boy's hair cut. I have a few strands that are longer than the others and you can see a little curve in them. So I guess curly is still a possibility. It is thick enough that when I wear my hat I get a small ring of hat hair around my head and it tends to stand up a little in the mornings or after showers. We'll see what happens. We have a wedding to attend here in May for a friend of Doug's and I would like to be able to go without a hat at least by then.


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    I hope that you are all doing well. Have a great week.






    A Note from Doug: We're also telling Keri's breast cancer story as a weekly comic strip. Check back each week to follow her treatment. In last week's episode, Episode 9, Keri describes how excited she is to be almost done with chemo.

Published On: October 10, 2007