PROVIDENCE - Brenda Schilder is a happy lady who doesn't seem to be bothered by anything. Her home is filled with beautiful antiques and flowers. She often takes her White Maltese, who is a trained therapy dog, to hospitals and nursing homes to brighten the lives of others. Little would you guess that there was a time when Brenda's own life seemed dark. In February of 2008, Brenda was diagnosed with breast cancer. After discovering the cancer was in both breasts she quickly decided to undergo a double mastectomy, her main priority being survival.
"But what I didn't realize was that I was going to go through a period of mourning because I'd lost a part of my body," the Providence resident admitted. She talked about feeling depressed and wanting to hide her new body after going through a double mastectomy. "You just feel like you're an 'it' walking around with no identity. It totally takes away your womanhood."
So Brenda and her husband started searching for options. After looking into reconstructive surgery and realizing it wasn't for her, doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute told her of another procedure. Fat could be taken from other areas of the body and added to the chest. They then told her about Dr. Paul Tanner, IHC's facial prosthetist. Tanner wanted to experiment with prosthetic nipples, but was having trouble getting response from those within the state. Brenda went down the hall to visit with Dr. Tanner and she soon became his first patient to receive prosthetic nipples.
She explained the process of how Dr. Tanner created a set of nipples unique to her. "We picked out the coloring and the size we wanted, and then he put them in the oven. Yes, he had to bake 'em to make 'em."
After the prosthetic nipples were created, Brenda received a glue to take home and apply the nipples with. Brenda gushed about how easy the prosthetic nipples are to take care of, that they can be left on while showering and removed every couple weeks to clean and reapply. Not only are the nipples easy to take care of, but they helped her feel comfortable with her body again.
"That day after all our happy tears dried up in his office, I walked out of there feeling that there is hope and there is life and much laughter after a mastectomy."
While Brenda was the first of Dr. Tanner's patients to receive the prosthetics, the practice has since taken off. He now works with women from all over the world who are breast cancer survivors.
Brenda wants other women to know that life can be normal after a mastectomy.
"There are options now that don't have to be real painful. And you can go out and stand tall again."