I was a 34-year-old single mum with a two-year-old daughter, living quite a busy life. I had a demanding job where I was responsible for leading a team, I had lots of hobbies and an active social life.
One day, I felt some odd sensations in my right breast and upon checking, I found some lumps so I decided to contact my GP about them. After examining me himself, he sent me to have a mammography. After several further tests and samples, I was finally diagnosed with breast cancer.
Luckily for me, Dr Helena Puonti was still working in Savonlinna at the time, before moving to Helsinki to complete her training to become a plastic surgeon.
She was reassuring and professional and she clearly explained the procedure to me in such detail that I was able to understand exactly what was ahead of me. Whilst she also made me aware of the risks that an operation such as this could include, I was able to have complete trust in her.
She also met me on emotional level holistically, taking my whole situation into consideration.
The news was shocking, and I was petrified.
The MS-TRAM (Muscle-Sparing Transverse Rectus Abdominis Myocutaneous flap) operation was long, and the recovery was painful. But Helena was with me throughout the whole process. She made herself available to help and answer all my questions. Then, much to my relief, she told me that I wouldn’t be needing any further treatments.
The physical recovery took around six weeks, but the mental and emotional recovery took much longer. The reconstructed breast didn’t look pretty at the beginning, but I was just happy that it had been made. Helena also told me that she would later fix it to look more like my left (natural) breast.
Little did we know, nine months later I would lose my left breast to cancer too.
During that time Helena was doing her plastic surgery training in Helsinki. Thankfully we were able to arrange for her to come back to Savonlinna to operate on my left breast too. This time, she used my back muscle (LD) to reconstruct my breast.
Again, she clearly explained to me how she planned to operate, and we went through all the details so that I felt safe.
The emotional stress was even worse this time. I wasn’t completely sure if I would stay alive.
So many thoughts went through my head. “Who am I without my own breasts?” “What am I going to look like?” “How will I ever be able to take my clothes off again?” And the worst thought of all, “who is going to take care of my little daughter if I don’t make it?”
Bit by bit Helena managed to fix my body to look more ‘normal’ and like its old self. The massive scar on my stomach and the zigzag pattern on my back were first red, then blue, but finally became lighter and lighter.
The shape of my breasts became softer and rounder, and after Helena crafted my new nipples (Barbie hats, as she called them) and tattooed them a darker colour to match my natural nipples, I began to feel more confident with my body-image.
I was very lucky and blessed to have Helena in my life during that time. Not only as a doctor but almost as a friend. She really cares for her patients and does whatever it takes to make us feel feminine again!
My life now
After moving to England in 2000 and during my six-monthly cancer controls, I would get many compliments about my reconstructed breasts. The local doctors wanted to know where they were made. You can only imagine how proud I was to explain that I’m from Finland and we had this talented super-special plastic surgeon in our little hometown, Savonlinna.
They have all been very impressed and so am I. After 25 years, I’m still alive, happily married, have a healthy grown-up daughter, and my “Helena-made-breasts” are beautiful.
Imagine how much more she can do now after all these years of studying, training and doing her PhD.
I could not recommend her enough to anyone needing and considering similar operations. All her work is done to the highest clinical standards and with exceptional personal care.
Thank you, Helena, for saving my life, and giving me back my femininity.