EXCLUSIVE: Nebraska’s first chest sensation restoration patient praises surgery

The feeling of a hug is one many breast cancer survivors don’t get to experience.
A new breast surgery option is working to change the lives of breast cancer survivors.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 9:28 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Julie Tacha is Nebraska’s first nipple sensation restoration patient.

“Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I thought, yep, let’s just go ahead and do it so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. No more mammograms, no more ultrasounds,” says Tacha.

Tacha is a newlywed and has a long family history of breast cancer. That’s why she decided to undergo a double mastectomy with reconstruction after her wedding.

And while that procedure is nothing new, sensation restoration is. It’s something plastic surgeon with Nebraska Medicine Sean Figy says is the first of its kind in the state and Tacha is Nebraska’s first patient.

“After he said it was an option, and it had never been done in Nebraska before, I said sign me up, we’re going to make history. So, it’s a good feeling,” says Tacha.

“I wanted to prevent cancer, but I still wanted to feel like me,” she says.

Dr. Figy echos Tacha’s sentiment and adds there’s a maternal link as well.

“Imagine not being able to feel a hug from your child again. And that’s the reality for a lot of persons who have had breast cancer and who have had that reconstruction. They don’t have that sensation anymore,” says Figy.

Not to mention, a protective sensation.

“If they’re numb, they can’t feel if they’re getting a burn, they can’t feel if they’re getting an injury they can’t feel if there’s pressure that can cause problems and that can cause a major complication after a reconstructive procedure,” says Figy.

These are all reasons to consider sensation restoration as a way to not only reclaim that literal feeling and reestablish that sense of awareness that makes us human.

“After seeing my mother go through radiation and chemo, even after she had the double mastectomy, and reconstruction was not an option for her, and so, that hit my heart a lot,” says Tacha.

Doctor Figy says to keep in mind that nerves are fickle and some people who undergo sensation restoration may benefit more than others. Still, he says doctors are doing their best to push the envelope and advance sensation restoration as much as they can.