WESLEY CHAPEL (FOX 13) - Her family scene looks healthy, happy, and normal: A mother home-schooling her kids. But for many months, Michelle Hall felt anything but normal.
"I spent many, many, months getting up and looking in the mirror and just hating what I saw. It was depressing. It was hard," the mother of two recalled.
Michelle made the bold move to get a preventative double mastectomy after a genetic test proved she was highly likely to get cancer.
"We discovered, about three years ago, I have a mutation in my BRCA2 gene that predisposes me to both breast and ovarian cancers. I have young children. I made the decision that I didn't want them to see Mommy sick."
But her body rejected the implants put in during reconstruction. Dr. Raj Ambay didn't do her initial surgery, but he can explain what happened.
"Michelle had gone through quite a bit having an implant fail. Having an infection, then having her plastic surgeon say there's nothing else we can do."
Michelle was staring into a long future as a woman with no breasts. "And while I had an extremely supportive husband, it was, I wasn't myself. I didn't look like me. I had this weird skin that didn't look normal. It wasn't OK."
Online research led her to Dr. Ambay of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, doing a new procedure that's unlike others traditionally done. "The new procedure is called a DIEP flap, and essentially it's a tummy tuck and breast reconstruction. The same tissue that is thrown out in a tummy tuck, without any muscle. It's just skin and fat; that's what we use to create a breast."
The surgery worked. You can hear the joy in Michelle's voice when she talks about it.
"So, I get up in the morning and get to get dressed like I did before. I go shopping and I get to buy the things I like, not the things that I can use to cover up. If I walk down the hallway and you see me, you have no idea. I can't tell you how incredibly uplifting that feeling is to know that I look and feel normal. It's absolutely fantastic."
Her advice to any woman facing reconstruction? "Don't hesitate to reach out and talk to people. You're not alone. Ever."
For more information on Dr. Ambay or the DIEP procedure:
27716 Cashford Cir, Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
Phone: (813) 406-4448