Georgi’s Story and Why ‘Earl’ Had to Die
Georgi traveled 800 miles to Vanek Plastic Surgery to receive a bilateral mastectomy and a breakthrough Breast Reconstruction procedure after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
Dr. Paul Vanek: My name is Paul Frank Vanek Jr., MD, FACS. I’m a board certified plastic surgeon, and a board certified general surgeon. My philosophy of care is to be available to patients, to provide them the best care I could give. I have a team approach with my hospital staff, with my office staff. I think I integrate the elements of personalized care with technological ability and availability of modern techniques.
Georgi: My name is Georgi. I live in Osceola, Wisconsin. That’s about 45 minutes northeast of Minneapolis. My daughters are 19 and 24, and we are the three musketeers. I mean, we’re so incredibly tight. I called them to come home. They came home in tears. I had told them, and I just had to lighten it up somehow, so I named the thing Earl. My tumor’s name is Earl, and we sing the Dixie Chicks song, Goodbye Earl, to it.
I had a spot that was tender and I was suspicious about, so I went in to get a mammogram. I got a phone call the next day saying, you need to come back for an ultrasound. During the ultrasound they said, “We need to do a biopsy.” Two days later, got the phone call from the radiologist. She just said, “You have cancer. We’re waiting for the test to come back.” She expressed her condolences and that was about it.
Dr. Paul Vanek: Hey Georgi.
Georgi’s a sweet person I met some years ago. She contacted me for some advice on breast reconstruction. It’s a very emotional thing to get a new diagnosis of breast cancer. My discussion with her was specifically about how we’re going to manage not only her cancer, but how to reconstruct her in a way that really makes her happy.
Georgi: You get a diagnosis like this and you just sit and think, “What in the world is the right thing to do?” It has been a godsend for Dr. Vanek to tell me, “It’s going to be okay. And this is what we need to do for you,” and to explain everything and how it’s going to impact my life.
I am so active, I think the thing that is the most frightening about everything I’m going through right now is the fact that I’m going to have to sit for awhile. I ride cutting horses, and reined cow horses, which is like a performance type horse. It’s very intense, and a lot of core muscle, and a lot of upper body muscle.
Dr. Paul Vanek: When Georgi talked to me about what her physical requirements were, riding a horse, running through barrels. Getting on and off a horse is very strenuous. One of the things that came to my mind is it sounds like she’s a perfect candidate for a prepectoral single-stage breast reconstruction. Why prepec Alloderm breast reconstruction is such an exciting thing for me as a surgeon is I don’t have to watch my patients undergo the painful expansion. The pain is a big thing for patients, and leads many of them to choose completely nothing except the mastectomy and no reconstruction.
Prepectoral means I’m putting the implant and Alloderm above the muscle, and that eliminates the very feature that is called an animation defect, by reinforcing the soft tissues of the mastectomy flaps. Putting the gel direct implant in a single stage, they’re back in business with their incisions healed in a few weeks.
Georgi: The fact that it was direct implant, the fact that it was prepectoral and not under the pectoral muscle, and the fact that it was nipple sparing, those were the three things that were super important to me.
Dr. Paul Vanek: I encouraged her to actually come see me and explore the possibility of her doing the surgery with me even though she lives quite far away.
I think that’s a doable surgery.
Georgi: The thing that drew me here was the fact that I could do this direct implant thing, and I could get back to my life in a timely manner. Also, it was Dr. Vanek.
Dr. Vanek is an amazing, caring, human being. He has put my desires first as to what’s important to me. He’s made it clear that the cancer comes first, but also it’s important that I feel good about how I look when I’m done. He’s been amazing.
Dr. Paul Vanek: After we talked over her options in exquisite detail, she’s going to have a single operation for the oncology portion of her breast cancer treatment, and at the same time undergo an immediate breast reconstruction using the material that gets incorporated into their body, get recvascularized as their own tissue, and it reinforces their implant reconstruction.
Georgi: I’ve just completely put my faith in God and Dr. Vanek, and all the people that are praying for me. I just am hoping that I can just take this tumor that I call Earl and never think about it again.
Speaker 5: You’ve got your horses in mind? You ready for your good dream?
Dr. Paul Vanek: When Georgi undergoes her breast cancer operation, while she’s going to sleep, she’s going to have a board certified anesthesiologist administer her medication. I’ll be there holding her hand when she goes to sleep. All through the entire procedure, she’ll have my entire team taking care of her and being mindful about her care.
She’s a patient that is likely to be able to go right to prepec with Alloderm reinforcement, and then insert the implants that I pre-sized.
I’ll be able to go to the operating room, and with the plan of taking out her breast and her tumor on her right side, and then at the same time using a [senti-probe 00:05:12] to remove the single lymph node that is closest to her tumor. We test that, of course, for cancer, and that’ll determine whether she needs radiation or chemotherapy.
After that oncologic procedure’s done, we do her left side in a simple mastectomy. Thereafter, we do her bilateral prepectoral breast reconstruction. We use a material that’s called Alloderm that is a tissue reinforcement to help support her breast mastectomy flaps. We put that implant above the muscle after we reinforce the tissues of her mastectomy flaps with the Alloderm material. The Alloderm material gets vascularized and incorporated into her body, and it gives a tissue reinforcement that makes the implant more long lasting and beautiful result. Then, she’ll recover with some drain tubes in for a few days and be able to go on her way in life.
I’m very happy.
Hi. Great news, huh?
Dr. Paul Vanek: Yeah.
Georgi: Oh my god.
Dr. Paul Vanek: I’m so happy for you.
Georgi: I’m so happy for me too.
Dr. Paul Vanek: I really am. I’m so happy. it’s such a great day.
Georgi: You’re the best.
Dr. Paul Vanek: Thank you.
Georgi: This has changed my life. It’s renewed my faith. It’s caused me to understand that people do love and care, and do kind things. It’s been a life changer.
Dr. Paul Vanek: For women who are facing a similar breast cancer dilemma as Georgi has, they should know that they have other options. With the innovation of Alloderm as a prepectoral breast reconstruction effort, we can do a single-stage procedure at the same time as their oncologic cancer operation that will reduce their amount of recovery and get them back to their life more quickly.
Georgi: It speaks volumes that Dr. Vanek and Lake Health are doing this procedure, and no other plastic surgeons are doing it. It’s such cutting edge technology, and it makes a woman’s life so much easier. You get back to your own life in timely manner. Absolutely, I would travel 800 miles to see him again and again.