Cincinnati woman helping others feel whole again after life-changing surgery
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Cincinnati woman is helping women feel complete after undergoing life-changing surgery.
Each year, 264,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the CDC. About 40 percent of those women undergo a mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery that removes breast tissue to treat or prevent breast cancer.
That is where Tammy Franklin and Personal Symmetrics in Camp Washington come in.
The business provides a variety of breast prosthetics for women.
It is the only post-mastectomy boutique of its kind in Cincinnati that has served the needs of women across the Tri-State for more than 25 years.
One of the women who used Personal Symmetrics is Connie Strauss, whose life changed forever in 2018.
“I went for a mammogram that I was having every six months because of calcifications being seen,” explains Strauss. “My husband had just passed in October of ‘17, so I didn’t want to miss my appointment. They did the standard mammogram and determined that there was definitely cancer in one breast.”
After undergoing an MRI, Strauss says they found more cancer in her other breast.
Fear quickly set in.
“Very fearful, because my husband had just passed,” Strauss says. “His daughter had just died of cancer, and you automatically think before you know all the details, ‘I’m going to die. I don’t want to die yet.’”
Strauss says she was given two choices: mastectomy and reconstructive surgery or bilateral mastectomy.
Because of her age, Strauss says she chose bilateral mastectomy - a procedure that removes both breasts.
During her recovery, she was referred to visit Franklin at Personal Symmetrics, one of the few certified post-mastectomy fitters in the region.
The boutique offers custom-made breast forms that can easily fit in bras, bathing suits and camisoles which are also sold in a variety of colors, sizes and styles.
A technology that Franklin says has advanced over the years since she started working with the company decades ago.
“I actually saw in the very beginning of time, women come in with water-filled products,” Franklin recalls. “It was almost like balloons in their bras, and with time, technology had definitely improved and now we’re doing custom breast prosthetics. We do that through 3D scanning.”
Battling cancer is a conquest on its own.
However, Franklin says women adjusting to their new bodies is another battle many experience.
A journey she is honored to help them overcome.
“Normally, when they leave here, they’re holding their head a little bit higher and they’re feeling a lot more confident,” explains Franklin. “Sometimes they’re crying and it’s always joyful tears.”
Strauss says with Franklin’s help, she felt whole once again.
“Tammy was wonderful with working with me and being patient for a perfect fit and doing everything that she could on her end to put me in something that would make me feel whole again,” Strauss says.
Franklin says this career has been equally rewarding over the years.
“I feel like it has just made me more empathetic, more caring more compassionate,” says Franklin. “I can’t imagine any other career that would have ever brought me this much happiness and joy and to me, happiness doesn’t come from anything except helping other people and I certainly feel like I’ve done that.”
Franklin not only helps with the perfect fit but also works with insurance companies to make it more affordable.
She says in the next few years, she is hoping to retire and is currently looking to take someone under her wing.
This story is part of a weekly segment called Breaking Through.
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