“People psychologically do a lot better when they wake up with something there,” she said, noting that, in some cases, a patient would require a second, or a rare third, follow-up surgery.
All surgeries are covered by health insurance, Shafer said.
While “never perfect,” reconstruction techniques get women to a point where they can feel comfortable wearing gym clothing, and observers would never know they had a mastectomy, Shafer said.
She sticks with her patients until they’re well on their way to recovery.
“It’s a sad day,” she said, of when her patient no longer needs follow-up care, “but it’s great to see them moving on in their lives.”
In some cases, Shafer sees patients who are unhappy with their breast reconstruction, like Peabody resident Sherri Temkin. Temkin had undergone a double mastectomy, and doctors used a method in which part of her abdomen was cut and used to reconstruct her breasts. Temkin said that after her surgery it looked like she had a tire around her stomach.
“She’s very, very compassionate,” Temkin said of Shafer. “She guaranteed me she could fix it.”
“That definitely happens where not everybody has the result that they’re looking for,” she said. “It’s an area that I enjoy because it’s complex ... to go back into a given surgical situation and to try to remedy that, it’s a delicious challenge and privilege.”
She also frequently attends conferences to learn about cutting-edge breast reconstruction techniques, such as the one she’s currently at in New Orleans. As president of the Massachusetts Society of Plastic Surgery, Shafer said she’s always looking for speakers to give talks and hold training sessions in Massachusetts.
“It’s another reason to be in the Boston area, because we’ve got absolutely marvelous innovators in our own locale,” she said.
Cheryl Lecesse can be reached at 978-338-2664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.