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DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Restores Shari’s Confidence

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Shari Palmeri and her husband and their five children
Breast cancer survivor, Shari Palmeri and her family.

Shari Palmeri, a homeschooling mother and a breast cancer survivor, views her journey, including undergoing DIEP Flap Reconstruction Surgery, as a hidden blessing for herself and her family despite the challenges of cancer. 

“I don’t recommend home-schooling and cancer,” she laughs.  

In May of 2022, Shari's commitment to her routine mammograms — one she nearly postponed for an extended vacation in Colorado — became crucial to her ultimate diagnosis. When her regular screening detected abnormalities, she was filled with disbelief.  

"There is no way I have cancer," Shari recalled thinking.  

It was not until mid-May that Palmeri received a call confirming the abnormality was cancerous. Despite her initial shock, Palmeri remained outwardly optimistic. She said her faith was a large part of that positive outlook. 

“Having faith in God and finding out you have cancer is not scary,” Shari said. “I wasn’t afraid because I had assurance that He always has a plan.”  

Shari was given a full diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer, one of the earliest and noninvasive forms of breast cancer on May 10. In August, Shari was scheduled to undergo a mastectomy, with the option to have breast reconstruction afterward. 

Admitting her diagnosis to others was among Shari’s toughest battles, as she wished not to burden friends and family with her diagnosis.   

“I had to reassure a lot of people, after giving them the news that I was going to be fine, when some days I was the one that needed a little reassurance,” Shari said.  

DIEP Flap Reconstruction Journey  

To better understand her options for breast reconstruction, Shari turned to Dr. Karri Adamson of Plastic Surgery and Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic. Shari opted for the DIEP flap reconstruction, a type of breast reconstruction surgery that involves removing skin from the lower abdomen and using it to rebuild the breast. 

“The great thing about the DIEP flap is that it is my tissue; it’s warm, it has blood flow, and it still feels like I have a part of myself after surgery,” Shari said.  

The procedure was life changing for Shari.  

“After having five children, I had extra skin and stretch marks, and both are gone! I feel confident, clothes fit better too,” Shari exclaimed.  

“Dr. Adamson offered to fix things whenever she had the opportunity to,” Shari said. “People up here are so lucky to have her. She is knowledgeable, personable, and confident.”  

Shari’s surgery was a success, and the healing process went well. One of the things Shari remembers is the kindness of the nursing staff at Aurora BayCare Medical Center.   

“The nurses knew I loved Starbucks refreshers, so one of the days they brought me one. Their welcoming hearts made it feel like family,” Shari said.  

Family and friends made sure that Shari stayed in a healthy mindset throughout her journey. 

From Healing to Happiness 

As Shari neared the end of her healing journey, she was eager to get back to the activities that once made her happy. One of her hobbies was horseback riding, something she enjoyed long before her battle with cancer. Now, she is pondering the thought of purchasing a horse, not just for herself but also for her daughter to learn and enjoy. 

“As a family, we live life a little differently now. We are taking advantage of things and realizing that tomorrow is not guaranteed,” Shari said.  

Throughout her journey, Shari stayed positive thanks to the healthcare professionals in her corner, her family and friends, and her faith.  

“Cancer can go one of two ways. You can tell yourself you will be a better person coming out of this or let cancer knock you down and you can be angry and bitter,” said Shari.

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2024