You may have had or are about to have a mastectomy, either because you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at very high risk of developing it in the future. If so, your doctor may have told you about options to rebuild your breast or breasts — a surgery called breast reconstruction. Typically, breast reconstruction takes place during or soon after mastectomy, and in some cases, lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction also can be done many months or even years after mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Whatever your age, relationship status, sexual activity, or orientation, you can’t predict how you will react to losing a breast. Each week throughout Pink Ribbon Month, we’re sharing the stories of how other women made this very personal decision to undergo reconstruction.

This is the story of why Jillian chose to proceed with an immediate breast reconstruction:

“Looking back, I was just trusting my instincts. I only had 21 days between finding the lump in my breast and the eventual mastectomy. There were so many decisions to make in that time – let alone all the information to process – and for the first time in a long time my gut instincts kicked in.

Immediately after the breast surgeon explained I’d need a mastectomy & possible axillary lymph node clearance, the breast care nurses counselled me on a few reconstruction options. To be honest, it never occurred to me that I’d have to make those decisions so quickly but they were able to schedule a consult with a reconstructive surgeon the very next day.

The options he explained gave me tremendous hope. I was newly divorced, 42 years old and still felt I had a lot of living I wanted to do. While everyone’s treatment course is a very individual choice, I knew I’d personally never feel “whole” if I didn’t do something about it. My surgeons have always spoken very honestly to me about the realistic outcomes we could achieve. I think that’s important; to manage your expectations. And time…. I remember feeling a bit of disappointment after the DIEP flap surgery but your body takes time to heal and re-adjust… Both physically and mentally.

Two years later I feel fabulous! I feel like I have a new lease on life, I’m fitter and healthier than ever and love that out of the chaos of breast cancer, I’ve emerged with a healthier mindset and positive body image.”