After eight rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation and a mastectomy, Kristen Dahlgren is excited to be in remission from breast cancer. But she’s surprised at what ended up being one of the “hardest” side effects from her mastectomy – losing the feeling in her breast.
The NBC correspondent, who announced in April that she is now cancer-free, said numbness in her breast is “a constant reminder” of her ordeal.
“So far, life has returned to normal and I try to enjoy every second,” Dahlgren, 47, wrote in an essay for Today about her treatment and recovery. “However, there is a constant reminder of what I have been through and what has not yet come. It hits me every time I take a deep breath, or get a hug, and especially when my daughter puts her head on my chest. That’s when I really ‘feel’ the toll that breast cancer has taken. It is discomfort and numbness at once. “
After 8 rounds of chemo and 25 rounds of radiation, I’RE DONE WITH CANCER TREATMENT No hugs or high 5s … not even a bell to ring because of #COVID But tears of gratitude for the #HealthcareHeroes who helped me through and all the support I received. # THANK YOU #cancerfree pic.twitter.com/Juz2EA462j
– Kristen Dahlgren (@kristendahlgren) April 29, 2020
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“Of all the side effects of treatment, it can be the most difficult for me.”
Dahlgren, who discovered her breast cancer in September 2019 after reporting unusual signs of the disease and then even noticed symptoms, said it was not a problem she had ever expected.
“Before breast cancer, I never understood that women who have mastectomy lose the feeling in their breast. Of course, it makes sense – as the nerves are cut during the operation – but it is not something that is often talked about, “she said. “After all, the most important thing about surgery is to remove all cancer and save your life. So numbness is something I thought I should just live with. ”
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Dahlgren asked if she would ever regain the feeling in her breast, and plastic surgeons have said it is not yet possible. But she also found a surgeon, Dr. Constance Chen, who performs “flap” reconstruction to reconnect the nerves in her chest with encouraging results – one patient said she was back at 80 percent in her chest.
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Dahlgren will undergo reconstruction with Dr. Chen later in the year, and while the surgeon has warned that “there are no guarantees,” she hopes for similar results.
“I would really just love to feel a hug – or my little girl hugged me on the couch,” she said. “If it does not work, life will certainly continue, but as I have done so often in the past year, I hang on to hope for now.”