Plastic surgery team reconstructs lives of breast cancer survivors

Sue Gibson-Weitekamp (second from left) thought she had gotten past all the procedures, surgeries and inconveniences that accompany a breast cancer diagnosis.

In 2005, she had a double mastectomy. But 13 years later she experienced terrible pain and learned her implants were failing. Reluctantly, she followed up on a referral from her OB/GYN to Carle plastic surgeon Natasha Luckey, MD. She was slow to make the call because she just didn’t want to endure more surgeries.

“I was apprehensive because I had been through it all before, and I knew what to expect,” Weitekamp said. “But I wasn’t apprehensive about Dr. Luckey at all. I liked her after the first two sentences that came out of her mouth. She told me she could remove the old implants and the scar tissue and put in new implants, so that’s what we did.”

Weitekamp is now through surgery and recovery and is pain free. The procedure was successful, which she expected, but she wasn’t as prepared for the compassionate team of nurses that helped her through the whole process.  

“Those nurses in that surgical department, they went above and beyond,” she said. “I am terrified of anesthesia, and Elsa and Michael worked with me through the whole thing. Elsa got down there with me and told me about all the machines and what they did. She knew how scary it was for me, and she was able to put me at ease.

“It ended up being a wonderful experience.”

Dr. Luckey is the first to echo Gibson-Weitekamp’s sentiments about her amazing staff and the work they do beyond the medical part of nursing.

“I am nothing without my staff, and they are an amazing group,” she said. “That’s what is so special for my patients going through breast cancer. My operating room nurse, Elsa, is quite possibly the best nurse, ever.

“She always sees what’s below the surface with our patients and really works to make them comfortable.”

Dr. Luckey said the most important thing for women to know about plastic and reconstructive surgery is that no woman should settle for something she’s unhappy with.

“I always tell my patients I am not going to settle until you are happy,” she said. “Gone are the times when you look fake after surgery. We can make you look natural and whole again.”

Gibson-Weitekamp wholeheartedly agrees.

“As a matter of fact, I just last night told a friend of my daughter’s that if she ever needed any type of plastic surgery, Dr. Luckey is the one you need to see. I even showed her,” she said with a laugh.

She’s also happy to share why Dr. Luckey made such a strong first impression.

“At my first appointment. Dr. Luckey wasn’t feeling well, but she knew I had taken time off work to be there,” Gibson-Weitekamp said. “She could have very easily had our appointment rescheduled, but she didn’t. I was so impressed with her compassion and concern for me as her new patient. 

“I knew then and there she was the physician I wanted to take care of me.” 

To learn more about Carle's Plastic Surgery Center, which will relocate to Carle at The Fields in west Champaign in 2019, contact your primary care provider or call (217) 326-2000.