Being a two-time breast cancer survivor has inspired Andrea Adair to become an activist volunteer, raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research and helping other women learn to hope, be courageous and find strength. Andrea is especially passionate when it comes to educating women about their post-mastectomy options. “After undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation therapy to treat my first cancer, I was overwhelmed,” she says. “Many times I thought of what I would do if I ever had a recurrence. I had already decided I would get a mastectomy — without surgical reconstruction.”
“When the cancer reoccurred this past year, I was fortunate to be in good physical shape,” she says. “I wanted as little time as possible between the mastectomy surgery and getting my fitness and sports routine back.” Andrea says her surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center asked her “the right question” before her mastectomy. “He asked me what my goals were, physically. He really didn’t expect it when I told him my goal was to catch more fish! And that meant no reconstructive surgery. It was going to be very time consuming and involve multiple surgeries. I didn’t want that to impact my being able to do the things I love.”
Westcoast Brace & Limb is one of the only clinics in the country that can offer all prosthetic options to post-mastectomy patients. This comprehensive rehabilitation allowed Andrea to approach her prosthetic care at Westcoast in phases. “While I waited for my scar to heal, I wore a standard silicone breast form. Ultimately, I chose to have a custom breast prosthesis made,” says Andrea.
Westcoast’s David Robinson, Clinical Anaplastologist and Sheila Johnson, Mastectomy Fitter, worked with Andrea every step of the way in creating her custom breast prosthesis — from making a mold of Andrea’s remaining breast shape while wearing a bra, to sculpting its mirror image from a plaster cast, then making adjustments to see how it fit in a garment. “David is a talented sculptor and a true artist working with the silicone, and Sheila was a tremendous help with her eye for detail regarding the fit,” says Andrea. “I was very comfortable with the personal attention required to make this happen. The last appointment involved working with David painting the silicone to match the color and characteristics of my skin. The result is amazing.”
“My custom breast prosthesis adheres to my skin with a naturally tacky surface that does not require adhesives. It is easy to remove. I wash it with mild soap at the end of the day, that’s it,” Andrea says. “Insurance paid most of the cost, which is nothing compared to surgical reconstruction. Reconstruction is a good option for many women, but it’s not for everyone. This is a great option and it’s right here in our community.”
After having her custom silicone breast prosthesis made, Andrea says she was able to get right back to biking, hiking, gardening and, of course, fishing. “I am much more comfortable wearing sportswear and undergarments that I am used to. Nothing special is needed. I have even started running again!” Andrea says. “It feels like such a part of me that I actually forget it is there.”
In addition to her full-time job at Managing Food, in Brandon, Andrea serves as Survivorship Chairperson for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and does fundraising for Casting for Recovery. Most recently, she and several others had their bodies painted by professional artists for the forthcoming book, “Bodies of Courage,” which will be available early next year to raise funds for the Faces of Courage Foundation.
“So many people tried to tell me what to do,” she says. “What I want people to think about is, what is best for them, for their lifestyles and what they want to be able to do after treatment. Cancer makes you think about how much time you have left and what you want to do with it. Don’t dream it’s over,” she says, “don’t you dare!”