Friday, May 14, 2010 2:22 PM

Patient puts up fight with double mastectomy, breast reconstruction

Jennifer Costello has “kicked cancer butt” as she vowed to do March 3 before she underwent a double mastectomy and the initial stage of breast reconstruction surgery at Clovis Community Medical Center. She’s completely cancer free with no need for any follow-up radiation or chemotherapy.

“I’m completely relieved and I feel like I will never have this battle again,” she said. “I know I made the right decision.”

When Costello found a cancerous lump in one breast, she opted for more extreme measures to fight the malignancy. “If I had done the lumpectomy and radiation as recommended, I know I would always be wondering and waiting for it to maybe come back,” said Costello, who watched her mother fight repeated battles with cancer before dying when Costello was a teen.

“I wanted to save my family from that stress and what I went through. That’s a lot of fear they don’t have to face.”

Now Costello is looking forward to her next step – plastic surgery with Dr. Stephen Zuniga for breast reconstruction possibly by July.

Costello has been sharing her story to help other women. She said after surgery she was warned there would be pain but she underestimated how much. “This was more painful than childbirth and I’ve had three kids,” she said, adding that it was worth it for the peace of mind. “I also didn’t realize that afterward I would have to be careful with lymph edema on airplanes and in high altitudes. If I take a flight I might have to wear a pressure stocking. For all the research I did before, I missed that.”

Costello explained that when lymph nodes are removed the body doesn’t move fluid as well and painful swelling can occur in high altitudes.

Despite some inconvenience and pain, Costello’s happy with her decision and grateful for a surgeon who supported her. “I just love Dr. (Vassi) Gardikas. When I first met her I interviewed her and she shared some personal experiences that made me comfortable and trust her. I knew then I wanted her to be my surgeon,” Costello said. “I’m fine,” she declared. “I’m back at work and back to life as normal.”