How a Breast Cancer Survivor Turned her Journey into an Empowering Platform


Posted: November 08, 2023 | Word Count: 2,007

Diagnosed with breast cancer nearly four years ago at the age of 41, Krisdee Clark*, like many women, was completely taken aback. What laid ahead for her was an inspiring journey of personal growth and recovery. Not only would she harness her own resilience and grace to thrive after treatment, but she would also channel her experience and strength to inspire change. In doing so, she'd create a meaningful platform to support other women who were going through similar struggles.

Facing a diagnosis with numerous hurdles

After feeling a lump and some minor discomfort while in the shower, Krisdee quickly made an appointment with her gynecologist who advised her to have a mammogram and diagnostic ultrasound. A week later, doctors scheduled a biopsy and shared the news of her diagnosis: invasive lobular carcinoma, a form of breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts.

To make a difficult situation even harder, the diagnosis arrived during her husband’s deployment overseas and coincided with the onset of COVID-19.

"The moment I was diagnosed, I knew I had to handle it with grace," explained Krisdee, a mother of two young children plus three “bonus children.” "I had to show my daughter that we could get through this. I had to show my son what it was like to be a woman and go through something like this, in case he ever has someone in his life who ends up in a similar situation. That was very important to me."

In addition to the weight of coping with her diagnosis, Krisdee struggled to find the right surgeon who could not only assure the successful removal of cancer but also instill confidence in the reconstruction of her breasts afterward.

Her grace was tested when the initial surgical oncologist she saw commented on her bringing an entourage to her appointment, which included having her husband join via FaceTime since he was deployed. Following this incident, Krisdee's desire for a double mastectomy was met with resistance, and the plastic surgeon she consulted with offered little reassurance, telling her that while she would never look the same post-reconstruction, the cancer would be removed, and she should be happy with that.

Krisdee left the appointment in tears, knowing there had to be other options. "I struggled because a lot of people had the view that once the cancer's gone you should be happy," she said. "Removing the cancer was number one, but at 41 years old, I wasn't ready to just accept that this is what I'd look like. It was very disheartening, and I knew there had to be more options."

Moving forward with grace

Throughout her very trying journey, Krisdee drew strength from within and the support of her loved ones to continue searching for a doctor that she knew would be the best fit for her.

This is when Krisdee's husband, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, sought advice from a colleague at Mentor Worldwide LLC, the #1 global brand in breast aesthetics, and another company within J&J. What Krisdee learned was invaluable: find a plastic surgeon who also specializes in reconstruction because they will work in partnership with some of the best surgical oncologists. Through this contact, Krisdee found surgeons Dr. Garrett Harper and Dr. Peter Turk, who actively involved her in every step of her treatment and reconstruction journey and gave her hope.

At the time of her diagnosis, Krisdee was initially informed of a 2 mm mass in her breast. However, a subsequent MRI showed the mass was closer to 5 mm and near her lymph nodes. In March 2020, just over a month after her diagnosis, and with the support of family, friends, and her doctors, Krisdee underwent a bilateral mastectomy (double mastectomy) and the mass was discovered to be significantly larger, measuring at 7.7cm. During her surgery, she had MENTOR® Breast Tissue Expanders placed to increase the amount of breast tissue needed prior to her having breast reconstruction with MENTOR® Breast Implants.

Turning struggle into strength

Like many women facing a breast cancer diagnosis, Krisdee was searching for answers, not just from a medical perspective, but from the shared experiences of women going through similar challenges. Frustrated by the absence of information, she decided to create The Blonde Bombshell, a blog that evolved into a much larger platform for Krisdee — offering a vital online community for women seeking resources, connections, and inspiration.

"I've spoken to many women who were talked out of reconstruction or dismissed by doctors. I'm thankful I found doctors that listened to me," Krisdee said. "I use my blog and platform to educate others about what to expect — and things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed. I want to be a resource for others because I wanted resources so badly."

Surprised by the global traction her blog was getting, Krisdee considered additional platforms to broaden her impact on raising awareness. Her aim was to ensure that women no longer felt isolated during their breast cancer journeys.

It had been years since she was a teenager in a state beauty pageant, but Krisdee recalled its potential for driving awareness and change. Motivated by this memory, Krisdee re-entered the pageant world, first winning the title of Mrs. Capital City in South Carolina only 8 months post-reconstruction. Shortly after, in April 2022, Krisdee was crowned Mrs. South Carolina American. Her journey continued on the national stage, where, just three months later, she took home the crown and national title of Mrs. American 2022.

Winning Mrs. American presented Krisdee with opportunities for public speaking, connecting with fellow survivors, and discovering a deeper meaning in her cancer journey. She's since joined Susan G. Komen for the Cure, serving as the Keynote Speaker for their Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, and recently shared her story on the Real Pink Podcast. During her reign, Krisdee also visited women cancer warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Through her journey, Krisdee wants women to have answers to their questions and assurance that they are not walking this path alone. Her platform is clear: Women can thrive and still feel beautiful after breast cancer.

"It was important to me that I didn't let cancer define me," Krisdee said. "I really believe that was my mindset from the beginning. It was very important to always have the outlook that I was bigger than cancer, and I would defeat this."

Learn more about Mentor and breast reconstruction at BreastImplantsByMentor.com

To learn more about Krisdee’s journey, visit www.KrisdeeClark.com.

*Krisdee Clark is being compensated by Mentor for her time and participation in sharing her story.

WARNING:

  • Breast implants are not considered lifetime devices. The longer people have them, the greater the chances are that they will develop complications, some of which will require more surgery.

  • Breast implants have been associated with the development of a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This cancer occurs more commonly in patients with textured breast implants than smooth Implants, although rates are not well defined. Some patients have died from BIA-ALCL.

  • Patients receiving breast implants have reported a variety of systematic symptoms such as joint pain, muscle aches, confusion, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and others. Individual patient risk for developing these symptoms has not been well established. Some patients report complete resolution of symptoms when the implants are removed without replacement.

The sale and distribution of Mentor Breast Implant Devices are restricted to users and/or user facilities that provide information to patients about the risks and benefits of the device prior to its use in the form and manner specified in approved labeling to be provided by Mentor Worldwide LLC.

Important information: Prior to use, refer to the instructions for use supplied with this device for indications, contraindications, side effects, warnings and precautions.

Caution: US law restricts this device to sale by or on the order of a physician.

Important Safety Information:

The MENTOR® Collection of Breast Implants are indicated for breast reconstruction.

Breast implant surgery should not be performed in women:

  • With active infection anywhere in their body
  • With existing cancer or pre-cancer of their breasts who have not received adequate treatment for those conditions
  • Who are currently pregnant or nursing

Safety and effectiveness have not been established in patients with autoimmune diseases (for example lupus and scleroderma), a weakened immune system, conditions that interfere with wound healing and blood clotting, or reduced blood supply to breast tissue. Patients with a diagnosis of depression, or other mental health disorders, should wait until resolution or stabilization of these conditions prior to undergoing breast implantation surgery.

There are risks associated with breast implant surgery. You should be aware that breast implants are not lifetime devices and breast implantation may not be a one-time surgery. The chance of developing complications increases over time. You may need additional unplanned surgeries on your breasts because of complications or unacceptable cosmetic outcomes. Many of the changes to your breast following implantation are irreversible (cannot be undone) and breast implants may affect your ability to breastfeed, either by reducing or eliminating milk production.

Breast implants are not lifetime devices and breast implantation may not be a one-time surgery. The most common complications for breast reconstruction with MENTOR® MemoryGel® Breast Implants include any reoperation, implant removal with or without replacement, and capsular contracture. The most common complications with MENTOR® MemoryShape® Breast Implants for breast reconstruction include reoperation for any reason, implant removal with or without replacement, and capsular contracture. A lower risk of complication is rupture. The health consequences of a ruptured silicone gel breast implant have not been fully established. MRI screenings are recommended three years after initial implant surgery and then every two years after to detect silent rupture. Breast implants are also associated with the risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), an uncommon type of lymphoma. An individual's risk of developing BIA-ALCL with MENTOR® Breast Implants is low based on the incidence of worldwide cases. The most common complications for breast reconstruction with MENTOR® Saline-filled Breast Implants include re-operation, implant removal, capsular contracture, breast pain, and implant deflation.

Detailed information regarding the risks and benefits associated with MENTOR® Breast Implants is provided in several educational brochures. For MemoryGel® Implants: Important Information for Reconstruction Patients about MENTOR® MemoryGel® Breast Implants. For MemoryShape® Implants: Patient Educational Brochure – Breast Reconstruction with MENTOR® MemoryShape® Breast Implants and Quick Facts about Breast Augmentation & Reconstruction with MENTOR® MemoryShape® Breast Implants. For MENTOR® Saline-filled Implants: Saline-Filled Breast Implants: Making an Informed Decision. These brochures are available from your surgeon or visit www.mentorwwllc.com. It is important that you read and understand these brochures when considering MENTOR® Breast Implants.

ARTOURA® Breast Tissue Expanders and CONTOUR PROFILE® Breast Tissue Expanders are used for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, correction of an underdeveloped breast, scar revision, and tissue defect procedures. The expander is intended for temporary subcutaneous or submuscular implantation and is not intended for use beyond six months. ARTOURA® Breast Tissue Expanders and CONTOUR PROFILE® Tissue Expanders contain a magnet within the internal injection domes and are NOT MRI compatible. The device could be moved by the MRI causing pain or displacement, potentially resulting in a revision surgery. DO NOT use the ARTOURA® Breast Tissue Expander and CONTOUR PROFILE® Tissue Expander in patients that have a previously implanted device such as pacemakers, drug infusion devices, artificial sensing devices, etc. that could be affected by a magnetic field. Mentor has not tested the effects of radiation therapy with ARTOURA® Breast Tissue Expanders and CONTOUR PROFILE® Expander devices. The incidence of extrusion of the expander has been shown to increase when the expander has been placed in injured areas: scarred, heavily irradiated or burned tissue, crushed bone areas, where severe surgical reduction of the area has previously been performed; and where steroids are used in the surgical pocket. Detailed information about indications, contraindications, warnings, and precautions associated with the use of ARTOURA® Breast Tissue Expanders CONTOUR PROFILE® Expanders are provided in the Instructions for Use (IFU) available online at www.mentorwwllc.com

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