Jen’s Story

“I didn’t know that these surgeries are often staged surgeries or that breast reconstruction is a new field—it’s only about 20 years old. The way I see it is that somebody who doesn’t understand is a really good opportunity to educate.”

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“I was diagnosed on July 12, 2017. I had Stage IIb, invasive lobular carcinoma on the right side,” Jen began.

Jen underwent bilateral mastectomies without breast reconstruction in August, 2017, followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy. Over six months later, she had implant reconstruction at the same cancer center where she received her other treatments. After surgery, she was immediately unhappy with the quality of her breast reconstruction. When Jen voiced her concerns to her surgeon, he silenced her.

Jen persisted but to no avail. She asked about fat grafting. He dismissed her again. Eventually, a nurse suggested that she seek a second opinion.

A second plastic surgeon in the same practice suggested that Jen have her implants moved from a sub-pectoral position below the chest wall muscle to a pre-pectoral position above the chest wall muscle. She underwent a prepectoral conversion procedure in November of 2019. While the surgery initially improved Jen’s appearance, those results did not last. She quickly recognized that her implants were once again settling into the wrong positions on her body.

picture of patient
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Jen sought a third opinion at a friend’s behest—this surgeon worked at a different medical practice. Jen said that the first thing he did was measure where her implants were in relation to her collar bones. Those measurements confirmed what Jen had been saying the entire time: the implant shelf was built in the wrong position.

In July, 2020, Jen underwent a third breast reconstruction with this new surgeon. He completely restructured the implant shelf. The results left Jen in tears.

“It was like I saw myself for the first time in a long time,” she said.

Jen said it was still difficult to truly get used to her reconstructed breasts. One of the tools she used to help with that process was her camera.

“I’m a boudoir photographer, and I photograph women in lingerie. It’s not about sex; it’s really about empowering women,” she explained.

“He just kept saying, ‘Be happy you’re alive! I’ve seen worse.’”

Jen turned her camera on herself at many points in the process, using her photography to heal herself. She continues to do this for herself and other women, many of whom have had breast cancer as well.

“My clients have changed as I’ve changed, and now I work primarily with breast cancer survivors.”

In addition to her photography, Jen is a vocal and powerful breast reconstruction advocate. She said she received a lot of shame for the number of reconstructive surgeries she had. She chalks it up to lack of individual and public education.

“You just don’t know until you know, and so that’s part of why I do the work I do and the advocacy and all of that, because people just don’t know. When I was told I had to have a mastectomy, I didn’t know that these surgeries are often staged surgeries or that breast reconstruction is a new field—it’s only about 20 years old. The way I see it is that somebody who doesn’t understand is a really good opportunity to educate.”

Jen’s photography is featured throughout our website.