Dr. Scott Sullivan Interviewed by CEO of Compassion That Compels
Our own Dr. Scott Sullivan is interviewed by Kristianne Stewart, founder and CEO of Compassion That Compels, to talk about support systems for women facing breast reconstruction.
Stewart: My name’s Kristianne Stewart, and I’m the founder and CEO of Compassion That Compels. We’re a non-profit, and we provide hope and emotional support to women battling any type of cancer, one compassionate act at a time. I wanted to talk a little bit about myself and about what brought me to form Compassion That Compels and touch the lives of thousands of women worldwide. It’s my distinct honor today to present my gifted and talented surgeon, Dr. Scott Sullivan of the Breast Center, thebreastcenter.com in New Orleans, Louisiana. For those of you that don’t know about the Breast Center, not only are they pioneers in surgical procedures, but they really have an all-encompassing approach to restorative care. Introduce my surgeon, Dr. Sullivan.
Dr. Sullivan: Oh, it’s incredible, the first time I’ve been here. Of course, I’ve known you for a while, and your inception of this idea was remarkable at first and how you’ve grown it to what it is, a number of thousands of lives you’ve touched and counting, and the countries you’ve extended to — mind-boggling.
Stewart: I’m often asked as the founder of Compassion That Compels not only my story but the story of my two sisters-in-law and my sister. One of my sisters-in-law battled metastatic breast cancer, and it was around the time that I was having my double mastectomy, and you were really instrumental in guiding me through that process. I’m not going to cry.
Dr. Sullivan: It was a tough time for you. I remember when you came in, you’d had the mastectomy and implant reconstruction at an outside institution from the Breast Center. You were like most of the patients when they come and see me. It’s just a very dim light. The person is almost faded. It’s just a flicker of a light. Besides, it’s emotionally taxing on everyone. We want to make sure to try to help guide you through and get you through a difficult situation.
The fulfilling part in my career, my profession, has been just that when you see these wonderful people who are totally overwhelmed, overcome, beaten down, and physically wiped out. Much hope may be lost. Facing their mortality, that’s a tough place to be. That’s a dark place to be. Fortunately, a lot have family support. They have spiritual support as well, which is very important.
Understanding their diagnosis helps a great deal. Understanding their options for treatment is very important because today there are a lot of really great treatments, not just surgically. Obviously, the business I’m in on the reconstructive side, the innovations have been pretty profound, but on the cancer side, on the lifestyle side, nutraceuticals, things like that.
So, it’s much more advanced than it used to be. It does obviously create a difficult challenge for patients, but I like to relate some optimism because there is. Many times, patients come out, particularly in the reconstruction, and they could even look better than they did before, but it does help to have support.
Stewart: It is October. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What if someone doesn’t have that support system?
Stewart: What if someone doesn’t have that support system? Let’s say they come to you, and obviously, there is a sense of peace. We kind of jokingly call the Breast Center “The Spa” because it is so luxurious and just has this very peaceful feeling that kind of exudes from everybody that’s there. So, someone’s newly diagnosed. What would you say to her?
Dr. Sullivan: So, obviously, it’s overwhelming for them to hear that. However, I would offer for them just to take a pause. Don’t focus on your mortality or “What’s going to happen to my kids?” For breast cancer and all other cancers, there are different stages. There are different tissue types, cell types that have different prognoses, and for each one, there are options for treatment.
For breast cancer, it’s lumpectomy. Sometimes if you have precancerous stuff, you could even watch it and do hormone therapy. For those who want to have implant reconstruction with mastectomy, those options, the implants they have now are very, very good implants compared to what they were 10 years ago. For your own tissue type reconstruction, the innovations there have been pretty profound over the last decade, where we can surgically take some fat if you’re storing some fat from one location and transplant it to the breast to reconstruct the breast.
So, there are a lot of options. It’s important for patients to understand it. There are great support groups that they have, where patients and other survivors or previvors can also help with support and guidance. Their experiences are very important. There are other forums on the Internet that provide good information as well.
Stewart: At Compassion That Compels, we always refer to our beautiful women as “overcomers.” We say you’re an overcomer the second that you’re diagnosed so that it doesn’t have anything so much to do with — it’s not what you survive in this life. It’s what you overcome.
Dr. Sullivan: Sure.
Stewart: And that is something that I penned as I was recovering from my deep flap surgery and writing a discussion guide for one of our devotionals that’s in our bag and something else that I wanted to show you today. So, our Compassion bags are always our signature piece. They will always be a part of Compassion That Compels. They are the point of contact that we’ve reached these women, and we touched them with a hope and a love that nothing can ever take away from them. The bags will always be here, but we changed them just a little bit. Are you ready?
Dr. Sullivan: Yes, lay it on me. Let’s see. Drum roll, please.
Stewart: Dadadada! We changed our colors up a little bit, so it is very similar to the METAvivor ribbon, but because our bags are for women battling all types of cancer, we try to incorporate all of the colors that we possibly could, and our ovarian cancer overcomers, we love you. All of our sisters, we just want you to know that Compassion That Compels is here for you. The Breast Center is here for you, and I want to say thank you so much for coming today. I was so broken, and I did not know how to even reach for that life preserver, and I thank you for being tenacious, for being kind, for being understanding, and knowing that I know that cancer hijacks everybody’s life, and what you do for women in the fight of their lives, I can’t ever thank you enough, Dr. Sullivan.
Dr. Sullivan: Oh, thank you for your trust.