Submitted by Twin City Plastic Surgery
Katie Bertsche is a survivor: after being diagnosed with Stage III B breast cancer in 2011, she underwent six months of chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy. She began breast reconstruction procedures as part of the mastectomy surgery and has had several additional surgeries to complete the reconstruction.
But Katie isn’t a “typical” breast cancer survivor, for a lot of reasons.
Breast cancer wasn’t even on her radar when she was diagnosed. At the time, she and her husband were facing questions about infertility when she happened to notice a lump in her right breast. Following a gut feeling that it was important enough to have a general surgeon’s opinion probably saved her life: a diagnosis of Stage III B means that the cancer was advanced enough to include lymph nodes. She was only 28 years old.
Katie’s first surgery took place in February 2012, and included reconstruction, but subsequent radiation treatment had damaged one of the implants that had been used. In May 2013, she underwent a latissimus dorsi flap reconstructive surgery to repair the damage and further complete the contouring. She has also undergone additional less-invasive surgeries that involved fat grafting to fill in where the implants can’t reach. Thankfully, these procedures have smaller incisions and shorter recovery times.
Katie now has been living with metastatic breast cancer since November 2015. That means her cancer has spread outside the breast, in her case, to her bones.
Katie’s experience with breast cancer and reconstruction, oddly enough, has a positive side. As the Spa Manager and Front Office Assistant at Twin City Plastic Surgery, her role gives her the opportunity to relate to the breast reconstruction patients. She is also involved in several breast cancer awareness programs, one of which recently took her to New York City during Fashion Week—to be a runway model.
The event, organized and presented by #Cancerland, AnaOno, and sponsored by Eisai Pharmaceutical, Inc., benefits METAvivor Research and Support. This year’s theme was #fearLESS, and the intent was to join early stage patients with the metastatic community to make a difference for all. #Cancerland is a media platform that offers discussions of a variety of topics using the voices of real individuals who live with the disease every day, providing a platform to talk about often ignored realities.
METAvivor is an organization that focuses specifically on funding research for Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. The money raised during the New York Fashion Week fundraiser show will benefit METAvivor, and the runway featured not just breast cancer patients, but those affected by Stage IV metastatic disease. Drs. Paige Holt, Laura Randolph, and Chad Tattini of Twin City Plastic Surgery sponsored Katie’s participation in the event.
AnoOno creates bras and lingerie for women who have had breast reconstruction, breast surgery, mastectomy, or are living with other conditions that cause pain or discomfort. Their purpose is to provide women an option that focuses on more than surviving, but truly living after going through procedures that are very clinical and uncomfortable. Katie modeled the Melissa bra and lounge pants and said of the entire experience, “The thought of walking a runway in just lingerie was nerve-wracking, but it was the most fun, liberating feeling. Especially because I got to do it with my breast cancer sisters.”
Twin City Plastic Surgery has a long history of giving back, whether it’s on a local scale or a more national scale such as the METAvivor sponsorship. Whether it’s providing a spa experience or other gift for a local school auction or carnival, participating as a VIP/Sponsor in the annual St. Jude Research Telethon, the Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk, the Doctors in Concert event for the Children’s Discovery Museum, or as a sponsor for the American Red Cross Evening of the Stars event, the physicians and staff feel strongly about helping others and making a difference in their community.
“I am so incredibly thankful for the doctors at TCPS for this amazing experience. Yes, it was a fun and exciting event, but more importantly, it shines a light on metastatic breast cancer. Most organizations donate less than 5% of their funds to metastatic breast cancer research. With more funding, this disease could be treated as a chronic illness versus a terminal one. Stage IV deserves more.”