Breast reconstruction is body image miracle for U.S. Army Major

Sarah Rykowski is a chief prosecutor in the U.S. Army. In 2013, while stationed in Seoul, South Korea, she discovered a lump close to her armpit during a breast self-exam. As the daughter of a registered nurse, Sarah knew she should see a doctor at her next post in Oklahoma. There, a mammogram and biopsy revealed early-stage invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. It begins in the milk ducts and can spread through the duct walls and into surrounding breast tissue. “I called my mom and Godmother, and cried,” says Sarah, who’s now 34. “I just remember my Godmother telling me, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re going to get a beautiful wig.’” Body image a major shift Nine days after her diagnosis, Sarah had a mastectomy of her right breast, followed by chemotherapy. But, she did not immediately have breast reconstruction. “My body changed, and I hated it,” she says. For women in the U.S. Army, dress uniforms are contoured to their body and bras are tailored for their uniforms because military medals and ribbons have to be a certain height and distance from uniform buttons. “I was up for promotion to Major when I was diagnosed,” Sarah explains. “And for promotions, you have to take a photograph.” Sarah scheduled her photograph for the day before her mastectomy. “As a woman, this photograph was all about how I looked,” Sarah says. “And the photo was perfect.” So after her mastectomy in Oklahoma, Sarah was ready for her body to be “put back together.” A breast reconstruction marvel Sarah was referred to Charles Butler, M.D., chair of Plastic Surgery,...