AiRS Ambassador, Mindy Miller

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!