Plastic Surgery Gave Lori McKenna Confidence Following a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Lori McKenna wasn’t surprised when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

“I knew it was coming my way,” she says.

Her two sisters had been diagnosed shortly before her, and the three women underwent chemotherapy at the same time. But after also enduring a lumpectomy and radiation, Lori was “angry” at her breasts when a different form of breast cancer appeared in 2007. She readily agreed to a double mastectomy.

“My oncologist said, ‘Lori, it’s your breasts or your life,’” Lori recalls. “Do these breasts define us as women? No. And they do such a wonderful job with reconstruction. It gets better and better every year.”

Dr. Maureen Chung, now Medical Director of Southcoast Health’s Breast Care Program, removed Lori’s breasts. In the same surgical session, Dr. Caroline Plamondon placed tissue expanders to make room for breast implants. Three months later, Dr. Plamondon performed a second surgery to replace the expanders with silicone implants.

“It’s important to me to feel good in my clothes,” Lori says. “And I feel great. I look good in a bathing suit.”

A Cumberland, RI, resident, Lori came to Dr. Plamondon for surgery to correct issues caused by the radiation on her right breast, which required a total of three follow-up surgeries.

“Dr. Plamondon is like my best friend,” she says. “I’d follow her to California. I just trust her.”

Dr. Plamondon, who practices at Southcoast Health’s Plastic Surgery in Dartmouth, also performed breast reconstruction on Lori’s daughter, who underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago at age 35. She earns her patients’ trust by talking with them to learn about their goals and concerns, and by being honest about what surgery can accomplish, Lori says.

At 64, Lori lives by the lessons she says her experiences have taught her: love hard, keep peace, forgive and rid your life of negativity. She works out at the gym every morning at 5:30am before going to her job at a Cumberland dental practice, where she trained as an orthodontic assistant and now works in management.

The mother of three said the mastectomy gives her peace of mind, and the breast reconstruction gives her confidence. At first, she feared that her husband, Tom, might not support her decisions, but he has been her champion.

Dr. Plamondon sometimes asks Lori to talk to women facing the same diagnosis and she tells them not to be afraid. She knows that with her family history, cancer could someday appear elsewhere in her body. Her oldest sister succumbed to breast cancer in 2006. But Lori refuses to worry.

“I think I’m very young at heart,” she says. “I want to feel that way and I do. Every day is a gift.”

For more information on Southcoast Health’s Breast Center, please visit Comprehensive Breast Care Center RI & MA | Southcoast Health. For more about our plastic surgeons and the services they provide, please visit Plastic Surgery | Southcoast Health.