The Friedman Center for Breast and Lymphatic Surgery
Division of Plastic Surgery
Having seen the suffering and devastating impact of breast cancer on my family members, I did not want my daughters to see that happen to me. My daughter’s have a 50% chance of inheriting the same mutation and face the same difficult decisions on how to manage their risk. I want to make sure that I set an example for them. Despite my struggles and set-backs, this experience has empowered me to help others dealing with breast cancer or the face the risk of breast cancer. So much so, that helping these women has now become my life’s work.
I began volunteering in the breast cancer community over a decade ago and found that with compassion, sensitivity and commitment I was able to help hundreds of women through the challenges of breast cancer treatment and recovery. My experiences and deep understanding of what women go through enable me to identify the unique needs of each patient. I am now at the heart of the Friedman Center for Breast and Lymphatic Surgery at Northwell Health where I support a team of plastic surgeons who focus on state- of- the art breast cancer reconstruction. I play a pivotal role in helping to create a positive experience for every patient and am responsible for program development, patient education and empowerment, public event planning, fundraising and serve as a liaison with physicians, support groups and other breast cancer related programs.
I routinely speak with patients about what they are going through and will often connect a patient with another woman who has gone through a similar course of treatment, while empowering patients to make informed decisions alongside their physicians about their breast reconstruction options in a warm and nurturing environment. We help women not just on the clinical side, but on the emotional side as well.
I also give back to others in the community and spend much of my personal time on humanitarian and philanthropic efforts for the community. I’ve continued my volunteerism since 2012 with an organization called FORCE (Facing Our Risk Empowered), engage in BRA Day events, and advocate for organizations such as AIRS.
These volunteer efforts to help other women, in many ways have also played a role in the emotional healing of my own journey
Anna Crollman was 27 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She immediately looked to blogs for support during her cancer journey, but found nothing. At that point, she decided to fill that void and start blogging to share her story and how fashion and beauty helped her navigate through some of the traumas associated with treatments. She found that the more she shared her story, the more she began to connect to other women. They would share their stores, struggles, fears, and how her story had inspired them. These connections helped Anna on the days she felt betrayed by her body.
Anna’s blog, My Cancer Chic has allowed her to provide insights and resources for women going through cancer. She is able to encourage women to realize the value of their stories and educate all women about breast health. What she realized was that there is room for every voice and that each is unique.
We are pleased to welcome Anna in joining the AiRS mission and look forward to using her network of connections to reach more women looking for help with reconstruction after breast cancer.
Brooklyn is a clinical pharmacist who practices at the Memorial Hermann Southwest Community Resources Center in a community resource center dedicated to serving those who are uninsured. She works daily to provide chronic disease management and medication education to ensure her patients have strong health outcomes until they are able to gain insurance and follow up elsewhere. She knows the impact and difference of it can mean to assist patients with resources they may otherwise not have access to, which is why she wanted to collaborate with the AiRS Foundation.
Brooklyn became a patient herself at the age of 28 when she was diagnosed with stage 1B breast cancer. Three years prior, her twin sister tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, prompting her to get genetic testing. She also tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation and began getting regular breast mammography and MRI (due to having dense breasts) screenings due to her increased risk of breast cancer.
In 2020, her MRI showed cancerous cells throughout her right breast ultimately leading double mastectomy, chemotherapy, breast reconstruction, and radiation. Her treatment left her learning who her new self was and trying to find a sense of normalcy and acceptance with her new body. An area that she struggled with the most was chemotherapy-induced hair loss.
“As a Black woman, hair is such a big part of our culture. I regularly wore my hair in a large afro that made me feel beautiful, confident, and strong. I had to redefine myself after active treatment.”
Even after her hair started to grow back in, she noted that her eyebrows and eyelashes took substantially longer. “I didn’t have eyebrows for the first year after I completed active treatment. You really forget how much your face uses eyebrows to give it shape. I felt like I still looked ‘sick’ without my eyebrows.” Brooklyn decided to seek out micro-blading from an esthetician who had experience working with cancer survivors to create her new brows, and she found it was just the boost of confidence she needed in the work to finding acceptance and self-love with her body changes.
Brooklyn uses her experience and story to continue advocating in her workplace and on social platforms, spreading the importance of breast health and getting appropriate screenings. She also shares resources and tips for breast cancer survivors that can help with body confidence and self-love. We are privileged to have her as a supporter of the AiRS Foundation.
Dallas, TX— The Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery (AiRS) Foundation is excited to announce that Allyn Rose, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and breast cancer advocate, will act as the non-profits first official spokesperson. In this role, Allyn will act as the face of AiRS Foundation for events and partnerships, and assist in driving the AiRS Foundation message forward through her platform.
Founded in 2012 by Janet Denlinger and Morgan Hare of Hylaco, LLC, and internationally known plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Rod Rohrich, AiRS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for restorative breast surgery, a vital part of total physical and emotional healing for many breast cancer survivors, as well as financially helping women who have had a mastectomy to pay for breast reconstruction who could not otherwise afford it. AiRS Foundation also acts as a resource and a support system; educating women on surgical options, and assisting with understanding their health insurance coverage, and offering support every step of the way through their patient advocacy program run by volunteers and breast cancer survivors.
Educating women about their post-mastectomy options is of particular importance, especially when considering that a great percentage of women diagnosed with breast cancer are unsure of or unaware of their reconstruction options. Most breast cancer survivors who have had a complete or partial mastectomy (removal of all or some of the breast tissue and nipple) are candidates for breast reconstruction. For many of these women, reconstructive surgery will help them restore their self-esteem.
The importance of educating women about their post-mastectomy options is something Allyn knows all too well. At just 24 years old, Allyn made headlines across the globe with her controversial decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy after losing her mother, grandmother and great aunt to breast cancer. Allyn went on to become the first woman with a mastectomy to be featured by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and is the creator of the social media movement #SelfExamGram, encouraging women to perform monthly self-breast exams. She continues to use her platform to educate women in breast cancer prevention, which makes her a strong voice as the AiRS Foundation spokesperson.
“I’m elated to be joining the AiRS Foundation family as they have distinguished themselves as a leader in the breast reconstruction community,” says Allyn. “I was inspired by their unwavering pursuit of providing women with the opportunity to feel whole again after mastectomy. Many do not know that, even in 2019, women are often given little or no choice in their options for breast reconstruction. The AiRS Foundation is a true advocate for women’s choice and I could not be more proud to be joining them as their official spokesperson.
Morgan adds, “We are delighted to have Allyn as the official spokesperson for the AiRS Foundation. Her tireless effort to educate women on breast cancer prevention makes her a dynamic addition to the AiRS family and mission. We can’t wait to see all the great things we accomplish together for AiRS and the women helped by AiRS.”
For more information about AiRS Foundation, or to coordinate an interview with Allyn Rose or any of the AiRS Foundation founders, please reach out to Christine Bove at email@example.com or Lauren Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about AiRS Foundation at https://airsfoundation.org/.
Victoria is an actor, singer, and dancer from the Chicagoland area who is currently living in NYC. If you’re a theatre lover you may have seen her on one of her 3 previous national tours or if you or your little ones are Paw Patrol lovers you can still see her cheering on the pups in PAW Patrol Live: At Home! on Paramount+! If podcasts are more your speed, you may have heard her discussing The Bachelor franchise on her previous podcast The Blckchelorettes with Vic and Mi. Both on and off the stage, or on or off the mic, Victoria always does her best to give the most authentic version of herself to those around her. Truly nothing could take her away from her passion, or so she thought!
Victoria was diagnosed with DCIS in February 2022 at the age of 29– as someone who didn’t have a family history of cancer and lived a very healthy & active lifestyle, this diagnosis was truly the opposite of how she thought she’d be ending her twenties. Like most young women, Victoria knew “the basics” of Breast Cancer but definitely didn’t keep up with her self checks as much as she advocates for others to do now. After discovering a lump in January of 2022, countless biopsies, ultrasounds, MRIs, and genetic testing, it was discovered that Victoria did in fact have DCIS Stage 0 and a BRCA2 mutation.
Due to her BRCA2 mutation, it was highly suggested by her team of doctors that she have a double mastectomy. After processing what that would mean for her as a single woman with no children she agreed that this surgery was best for her. Victoria went through with the double mastectomy in April of 2022 which left clean margins meaning that Victoria was thankfully cancer free. In the several months succeeding (and after a terrible infection from tissue expanders) Victoria began to figure out what her life would now look like as a cancer survivor.
When the time for reconstruction was approaching, Victoria was also getting ready to move back to nyc after being in Chicago since the pandemic shut down the entire theatre community. As the move and reconstruction date were so close Victoria decided to transfer her care to a cancer facility in New York so that she could be close to her team during recovery. Victoria finally completed her reconstruction in March of 2023, nearly a year after her double mastectomy (so yes, that means she had expanders in for 11 months! Iykyk).
Survivorship for Victoria looks like continued appointments, deciding on how or if she wants any type of nipple reconstruction, yearly ultrasounds to monitor her ovaries due to the BRCA2 mutation, and of course the process of egg freezing due to having to get her ovaries removed by 40 to reduce the risk of Ovarian Cancer. Survivorship for Victoria also looks like being back doing what she loves in nyc– auditioning, performing, creating educational (and also usually humorous) content regarding Breast Cancer, trying to date (and failing), working out, and spending time with the people she loves.
Victoria is so thankful for the opportunity to partner with the AIRS Foundation in order to make breast reconstruction more accessible to all those affected by Breast Cancer.
Mindy is a medically based speech-language pathologist who resides in southwest Missouri. An avid runner, she was diagnosed in early 2016 with stage 2 breast cancer soon after discovering a lump in her left breast upon returning from an outdoor run. Five months of IV chemotherapy and a lumpectomy-turned-mastectomy would ensue in addition to full breast radiation and multiple reconstructive surgeries. Couple with these interventions nearly 6 years of endocrine therapies for recurrence prevention purposes and we are brought up to speed!
Breast reconstruction is a subject about which Mindy is especially passionate discussing due to the sequence of medical events that has resulted in her having a fair amount of breast asymmetry. Despite her post-chemotherapy MRI yielding “unremarkable” (clear) results, the pathologist analyzing her tissues identified malignant cells on 3 of 4 margins. It was then time to return to the operating room for a unilateral mastectomy, a choice she made as she had been engaged to be married only 3 months at time of diagnosis, a decision rooted in wishes to someday become a mother able to breastfeed with her unaffected side.
Upon attempts to heal from her tissue expander-to-implant exchange surgery, what was supposed to be her final surgery, Mindy found herself contending with non-healing wounds along her incision line as result of tissue damage sustained from radiation. In lieu of a latissimus dorsi flap surgery, which would be a common next step under traditional medical models, her plastic surgeon recommended an innovative approach—a revision surgery followed by 30 hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments under the care of a physician specializing in wound management. This was profoundly successful and lasting incision closure was achieved at last!
As one can imagine, the ups and downs of a reconstructive process can be emotionally fatiguing, and a woman’s ever-changing physical appearance can contribute to difficulty with the emotional aspects of healing in the days, months, and years that follow. Mindy has worked fervently within herself to identify the beauty that lies within her breast asymmetry and to discover and embrace the storytelling power of her scars. “I am safe in my body,” she often shares as a mantra of self-empowerment, an affirmation of complete healing.
Presently, Mindy shares her story of life and living following her breast cancer diagnosis and finds great purpose in her role as an advocate in the breast cancer community, specifically for early detection measures and breast health education. She also finds joy + healing in writing and has been published in several national publications. She is both honored and excited to serve as an ambassador in support of the AiRS Foundation!
My Breast Cancer Experience
The Pink Warrior
I was 35 when I received the news that no one ever wants to hear: “You have breast cancer.” At that moment, a myriad of thoughts stormed through my mind—fears about my future, concerns for my two young boys, and questions about how this would affect my work as a nurse practitioner and a professor. As a healthcare provider, I had always been the one administering care, but suddenly, I was thrust into the patient’s seat, grappling with what would become one of the most formidable challenges of my life.
Treatment in the time of COVID-19 added another layer of complexity. Hospital protocols shifted almost overnight, and the experience became, in many ways, isolating. My husband wrote about this period on our blog, describing the emotional toll and the logistical nightmares of navigating a pandemic while supporting a spouse with cancer. However, despite the overwhelming nature of it all, I found the experience oddly empowering. Amid the chaos, I decided to channel my experience into something positive, launching The Pink Warrior. I wanted to offer a place to share my story and empower others going through something similar, but also wanted to offer items and products that could uplift other breast cancer warriors and also support organizations doing critical work in breast cancer research and support.
Being on Tamoxifen as part of my ongoing care has been a rollercoaster of side effects and constant monitoring. As a healthcare professional, I understand the importance of this medication in reducing the risk of recurrence, but it doesn’t make coping with hot flashes, mood swings, and other side effects any easier. I’ve incorporated lifestyle changes and integrated holistic approaches to manage these symptoms better, but it’s a journey—one that I openly share in my community outreach efforts, hoping it can help others in similar situations.
Survivorship is a word that carries significant weight for me. As a 3-year breast cancer survivor, I often reflect on the vulnerability and strength that intertwine in the tapestry of recovery. It’s not just about medical treatments; it’s also about mental resilience, support from family and friends, and the drive to turn adversity into advocacy. My experience with breast cancer has influenced my work in primary care and specialty healthcare services, particularly in underserved communities. It’s given me a unique perspective on the healthcare needs of those who are often marginalized or overlooked.
I’ve found that the conversations I have now—whether they’re about a woman’s right to choose, primary care healthcare management, or being a boy-mom—carry an additional layer of profundity. Time does seem to be flying, especially as my youngest is now in kindergarten. Yet, each moment feels more valuable, each interaction more meaningful.
Through it all, my two boys have been my constant source of inspiration. I want them to grow up knowing that challenges are an inevitable part of life, but it’s how we respond to them that defines us. For me, survivorship is not just about beating cancer; it’s about living every day to the fullest, and helping others in similar situations do the same!
Lauren was 34 years old, married, the mother of a 1-year-old. Breast cancer wasn’t something that had crossed her mind. She does have a history of breast cancer in her family and had been undergoing annual mammograms since she turned 30, but breast cancer wasn’t on her radar.
At an OBGYN appointment, Lauren mentioned a nagging pain in her armpit. Her doctor was out, so she saw another doctor. He told her it was an ingrown hair, and advised her to come back in a couple of weeks or months.
Shortly after this exchange, Lauren called to schedule her mammogram. A week later, she got a call with the results: the mammogram showed asymmetry and calcifications, atypical for someone her age. But the person on the other end of the line didn’t seem concerned, so Lauren didn’t call back to arrange a follow up. “There was no sense of urgency, so I wasn’t concerned about it,” Lauren said.
The next day, her OB called. She’d been going through Lauren’s notes and wanted to know if she had any questions. “I talked to her about my armpit pain, and I also brought up my mammogram,” Lauren said. “I told her what they said on the call, and that I didn’t think I was going to go to my follow up, but my doctor said, ‘I don’t like the way that sounds. Please go to the follow up.”
Lauren scheduled the follow up test, a breast ultrasound. She remembers how quiet the tech was – nice, but quiet. There was something concerning on the scan. A week later, Lauren went in for a biopsy. And a day after that, Lauren learned she had breast cancer.
“I was at home when I got the call, in my last meeting of the day,” she recalled. “We were going into Labor Day weekend. My son was at his grandparents’ house. I had a half day of work and was wrapping up, we had football, we had the Kentucky Derby. It was going to be such a great weekend. That is what was on my mind.”
“I did not have a lump. I did not have discharge from my nipple. The only symptom of breast cancer was pain in my armpit,” Lauren said. “I also had increased blood pressure and I had weight gain, but we were six months into the pandemic. I was breastfeeding and considered postpartum. In a vacuum, these things didn’t mean anything. Together, they were all red flags.”
Lauren found an oncologist. She underwent an MRI and PET scan. The cancer was in her lymph nodes. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, 11 rounds of immunotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation therapy and a double mastectomy. Initially, treatment was supposed to be a year. But it stretched on and she had several complications.
After her mastectomy, Lauren had reconstruction but developed staph (an infection), which precluded her from implants. She then had a latissimus dorsi flap to replace radiated skin to build a breast, but the flap didn’t take. She ended up having a DIEP flap, but then contracted MRSA (an infection) and had to go back to surgery. “I’ve had nine reconstructive surgeries, and I’ve had 11 surgeries total over 18 months,” she said. “It has not been a straightforward line. That weighs heavily on the mental toll of survivorship and moving on.”
For two years, Lauren was in survival mode. Only recently does she feel like cancer is no longer a daily or weekly thought. She and her husband are expecting their second child, a little girl. She’s focused on a move. “You have to take the power from the timeline of when you’re supposed to be fine, when you’re supposed to be normal, when you’re going ‘back’ to who you were,” she said. “There is no ‘back.’ I think if you let go of that disappointment of trying to get that person back, if you grieve and let those things go, I think you will get on your path to survivorship quicker and more steadily.”
Sabrina Skiles is a Denver-based award-winning writer and creator of the lifestyle brand SabrinaSkiles.com, a resource for empowering millennial women and those living with chronic health conditions. Led by her passion for people and commitment to changing the way young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are seen and treated, Sabrina’s unfiltered honesty, transparency, and optimism is apparent throughout her work and social media content. There is a need to bring heightened awareness and attention to the experience of living with breast cancer as a young woman—Sabrina is at the forefront of that conversation.
Sabrina has been a breast cancer survivor since 2019 and has been living with psoriasis for more than two decades. Her mission is to support moms and inspire confidence rather than guilt, while aiming to show those living with chronic diseases that it is possible to lead a happy, healthy and stylish lifestyle. Creating Mauka Breast Cancer Survival Kits, Sabrina wants to share that there are clean and natural products to help make the chemo and radiation experience a little less stressful.
Sabrina filmed her entire breast cancer diagnosis with HealthCentral: Tales from the Chemo Chair shows what it’s really like—as a young woman under the age of 45 with two young kids—to live with breast cancer. With this video series, she hopes to be more than just another breast cancer statistic; she intends to inspire others and assure them they are not alone.
Sabrina was awarded the PM360 Elite 2020 Patient Advocate award honoring those doing exceptional advocate work. Elite stands for Exceptional Leaders, Innovators, Transformers, and Entrepreneurs.
Her writing has been featured in publications including SELF Magazine, SheKnows, Everyday Health, Healthline, HealthCentral and the Journal of Dermatology Nurses Association.
Sabrina lives in Colorado with her husband, Chris, and their two boys. Get to know her at SabrinaSkiles.com.
Purchase a copy of her book, Read That Again: Surviving Breast Cancer with Courage, Candor and Community here.
Since 2016, I had been discovering lumps in my breasts, and have a rich history of family members with various types of cancers, especially breast. Given that my breasts had always been dense and cystic, I sought a preventive mastectomy to avoid experiencing what my family members had gone through.
Regrettably, I was unable to undergo the procedure without bearing the financial burden.
Fast forward to the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had just been let go from a job I loved when I noticed another lump. Initially, I dismissed it as yet another cyst.
However, when my period came and went, I realized something was wrong. On August 17th, 2020, at the age of 33 years old and only the day before my 2nd wedding anniversary, I received an official diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer.
I’ve always been an active person, my mom used to say when I was a baby I learned to run before I could walk and I’ve been on the go ever since. Breast cancer wasn’t going to stop that part of my life, so I learned how to adapt and overcome any obstacle that stood in my way during treatment.
Utilizing the power of fitness, I successfully combated breast cancer, and now, as a cancer exercise specialist, I am dedicated to helping others achieve the same.
During my treatment, I faced setbacks, as is common in a cancer journey. One setback though proved to be significant.
After my double mastectomy, I received the news that my lymph nodes were clear and the remaining tumor had been successfully removed. However, a week later, my surgeon delivered the unfortunate update of micro-metastasis in one of my biopsied lymph nodes. Another surgery was necessary to remove them, posing a high risk of lymphedema.
This was the birth of Foobs & Fitness.
Tired of reactive approaches that waited for symptoms to appear, I refused to let history repeat itself. Recognizing that others faced similar challenges, I knew action was needed.
During my extended treatment plan involving radiation and oral chemotherapy, I returned back to school to obtain certification as a Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Once I obtained my certification, I furthered my education and became a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist with the Cancer Exercise Training Institute.
A cancer diagnosis is a complete game-changer. Reversing the mindset that your exercise routine is solely about fitting into those “skinny” jeans or that adorable new bikini is no easy task.
Now, your physical activity is driven by the sheer will to stay alive.
The ever-growing number of studies, highlights the positive impact of physical activity. It reduces the risk of cancer, mitigates the side effects of cancer treatment, and minimizes the chances of a recurrence, and my goal is to create a tidal wave of change within our healthcare system.
While there may not always be an absolute foolproof way to evade a cancer diagnosis, we have abundant options to proactively support ourselves in a positive manner.
My mission is to educate and empower others how they too can take back control of their lives!