A Letter of Thanks

A Letter of Thanks

October 3, 2023

I apologize for how long it has taken me to send this to all of you. This letter will thank all of you together and individually:

Where do I begin to thank you all for everything you have done for me? When I started my journey with you, it was in February 2014 after being diagnosed with DCIS of the right breast. I had my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction phase one with you at that time. My body has always been, “outside the box”, and not surprisingly, I had many complications with the first stage surgery and a mostly failed flap several months/years later (on the right side) after the second. I remember talking to Dr. DellaCroce at that time and mentioning that if I ever wanted / needed to get the right side redone, that I would want him to do it, as his skill and calming demeanor was truly a godsend to me with all the issues in the first surgery. He mentioned he would even come out of retirement for me, whenever I was ready to redo the surgery.

As the years went by, I got used to the necrotic fatty tissue (now encased in calcium) pushing against my chest wall while wearing a silicone breast form in my bra on the right side. I have a fairly high pain tolerance but never realized how uncomfortable that was until I was in the recovery room after my reconstruction on 7/20/23. Even though I was on pain medication post-surgically, I could already tell what a relief it was having that large necrotic tissue removed.

I was introduced to your center by a friend of mine who had surgery with you and was so impressed by your care that she referred me to you. When I was first at your facility, I was amazed by how caring your staff was and how dedicated you all were to caring for your patients.

This time, you all really went above and beyond, and I would like to recognize those that have helped along the way in this journey:

First, and foremost, Dr. DellaCroce: from the moment we first met when I was first diagnosed, I was so stressed (as I’m sure most people are after receiving a cancer diagnosis). There are so many fears of what will be found during surgery and what the outcomes might be, even with just a DCIS diagnosis. Your calm and lighthearted approach instantly put me at ease. You asked what I wanted my body to look like after the surgery, and I was surprised. You turned a stressful situation into something that I felt I had more control over. Even though it was just asking what size I wanted, it made me feel more in control and psychologically helped me to think that maybe I could look even better after than before, welcome thoughts before a stressful surgery. When I had So many complications, I wish I had known to bypass the PA at that time (who is no longer with your organization-and kept misdiagnosing me with Costochondritis) and speak with you as I know you wouldn’t have allowed the trapped nerve to go on for 4 months. I said it to you after my second surgery that you freeing that nerve truly gave me my life back.

Dr. D, you listen and are so passionate about what you do that you truly have a center that is doing things right in a world where so many health centers may aspire to be like you guys but truly don’t compare. Great examples of this are when I didn’t have to ask for you to look at the necrotic tissue before sending it to pathology in July… you just knew that of course, it eased my mind to know you didn’t see any cancer. Also, you telling me that the majority of vocal cord nodules aren’t cancer. Of course, that is the first thing I would be thinking as once you get a cancer diagnosis, everything else that comes up with the body will always concern you that it is cancer. The empathy and compassion to do these things (without someone asking) is just a testament to your high quality of care, something that is missing in most places these days. I don’t know of many surgeons that would provide a free zoom call consultation and offer to help one of your former interns (who now provides similar services in Arizona) to do the procedure you just did on 7/20. Your offer to talk with him and discuss it went above and beyond and shows your dedication and passion to women going through breast reconstructive surgery. The surgeon here in Arizona (who is very knowledgeable and kind) was thinking it might take several surgeries (5-6) to help rebuild that right side and felt the TDAP wouldn’t work. Having struggled with body image issues for most of my life, I can honestly say that after this last surgery, I actually feel good about my body for the first time, and you did a one and done! Saying thank you will never be enough to express my gratitude for your generosity, your compassion, and your passion about what you do. Thank you Dr D… you are truly one in a billion!

Emilie Saunee PA-C: After my first experience, I was concern how the second one would go. You were so attentive, kind, and your attention to detail could not be matched. I felt like I truly had a team member who understood how frustrating my high maintenance body can be lol. Helping me with finding places like the blood bank, the pharmacies to check on medications that I could take without allergic side effects, the close follow-up instructions, and you and Dr. D going above and beyond to point me in the direction of ENT specialists here in Arizona. Sending the final pathology report so quickly, also was a huge sigh of relief! Even researching places to eat and things to do with my daughter when we came in June, are things that are just above and beyond. All of these things made me feel more comfortable. Thank you, Emilie!!!

Dr Aleicia Donald: I can’t thank you enough for listening and putting me at ease by going the extra mile and taking pictures of my vocal cords after I requested it. You made me feel calm and comfortable. In a world where most people don’t listen to their patients, you didn’t even ‘bat an eye’ when I asked and let me know that I wasn’t crazy when you sent the pictures of my vocal cords with the nodules. You just don’t see people doing those things in healthcare these days. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate you!! Please also thank the Nurse Anesthetist, Kristen Nelsen for me as well!

Cherisse Heidingsfelder – Director of Financial Services and her employee Amy Traub. Cherisse, thank you so much for calming me, helping me, and understanding the stresses of being a single mom, receiving no child support, and being a small business owner. You kept working to find a way to help me. The fact that you worked with the CFO to help me through this process (without insurance) is truly remarkable. For all of you that helped reduce the fees and make this surgery possible for me, I can’t thank you enough!! Your wiliness to work with me (instead of turning me away) to make this doable is something I will always be grateful for. You guys are truly the best!

Celeste Bourdonnay: Thank you for reaching out and guiding the process along the way for me!

For the rest of you: Kim Adams, Laura Breckenridge, Stacy Lowe, Sarah Smith, Courtney Rehm, Hayley Guillera and Shante Mercier. While there are some I can’t remember owing to medications post-op lol, I know my care was excellent, and my friend (Anne-Marie Mueller) couldn’t stop talking about how amazing you all were and how comforted she was when the surgery took longer, and you notified her so she could notify my daughter. I am truly grateful for your excellent care!!

Thank you all again! You all are simply amazing!!! I tell everyone about your center and have put your information in one of my Youtube business channel videos that discusses my journey with cancer that I released last October.

Wishing you all health and happiness always!

Fondly, Heather Wen