A former pharmaceutical sales rep, Deidra is a 3-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with melanoma in 1991 at age 32 in 1991. In 2006, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 47. Three days before Christmas in 2014 and 12 weeks before the wedding of her son, Pierce, she was diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in two spots. She had double mastectomy and immediate DIEP flap reconstruction on January 18. She also had nipple reconstruction and tattooing. Her goal was to be able to dance at Pierce’s wedding, and she did. She continues to take an aromatase inhibitor.
Deidra is one of three women whose stories are featured in the Breastcancer.org video series on reconstruction after mastectomy.
Listen to the podcast to hear Deidra talk about:
- why she was honored to share her story
- what she would tell a woman who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer
- how she felt when she was relating her story on camera
- what dancing at Pierce’s wedding meant to her
Running time: 20:17
Show Full Transcript
This podcast is made possible by the generous support of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans.
Jamie DePolo: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Breastcancer.org podcast. I’m Jamie DePolo, the senior editor at Breastcancer.org. Today’s guest is Deidra Langridge, one of the women whose story of breast cancer diagnosis and breast reconstruction is featured on the Breastcancer.org site.
A former pharmaceutical sales rep, Deidra is a three-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with melanoma in 1991 at age 32. In 2006, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 47. Three days before Christmas in 2014 and 12 weeks before her son’s wedding, she was diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in two spots. She had a double mastectomy and immediate DIEP flap reconstruction on January 18. She also had nipple reconstruction and tattooing. Her goal was to be able to dance at her son’s wedding, and she did. She continues to take an aromatase inhibitor. Deidra is one of three women whose stories are featured in the Breastcancer.org video series on reconstruction after mastectomy. Today she’s going to talk to us about making the videos and sharing her story. Deidra, welcome to the podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you today.
Deidra Langridge: Thank you so very much. It’s an honor to be with you.
Jamie DePolo: What was your first thought when the people from the Center asked if you’d like to participate in a video? Had you ever done anything like that before?
Deidra Langridge: Actually, I felt extremely honored. There aren’t many times when you experience something, such as breast cancer, that you have an opportunity to be a spokesperson in a manner of which this would’ve afforded me. There are many patients at the breast center, and for them to have chosen me to highlight them — I felt completely honored and an opportunity to pay back, if you would say, or pay forward everything that the doctors, Dr. Scott Sullivan and his group, had done for me.
Jamie DePolo: Did you have any hesitation at all? Did you think, “Oh, I don’t know if I want to share all those details”?
Deidra Langridge: No. I knew I would want to share them completely. I do it on a regular basis. I volunteer at our local cancer center. Once I retired 5 years ago, I wanted to give back to my personal oncologist, Dr. Jay Saux, after a bout with cancer. And when I went to him and said I wanted to volunteer, they were very happy to have me. And so, my main goal when I walk in is I ask, “Is anybody — is today their first day?”
And they particularly point me out to any breast cancer patients, if it’s their first or second time, if I may have missed them. So, I always take an opportunity to share my story. That’s all I can talk about is my story. And if they ask, “What do you recommend,” I can only talk about me. I’ve learned that. I say what I did. And so, I use it as an opportunity to share and hopefully someone else will gain wisdom.
Jamie DePolo: That’s excellent. Now, your husband is in the video with you. Was he at all hesitant about doing that? Because I mean you’re a family, but it is your story not really his story. Was he hesitant at all, or was he, “Nope, let’s do it.”
Deidra Langridge: Actually, that’s where I think you and I might disagree on that point, because it is his story. It is the caregiver’s story without a doubt, because breast cancer doesn’t affect just the woman who is going through it. It affects her whole family. It affected my daughter, my son, my husband completely. It affected our whole family and it affected my mother, my sisters. But him in particular, because we’d been together, at that point in time, for 42 years, he’s the only man that I’ve been with.
And so, yes, me having breast cancer, us making the decision of what I was going to do. He said it was totally up to me, he would support me in any fashion on the decision of what I wanted to do. When Dr. Saux, at our appointment, stated what I had my instant question was, “Am I having chemotherapy,” because my son’s wedding was so close. He said, “No, it was caught so early.” And then he said, “Where do you want to go?” and I said instantly, “Dr. Scott Sullivan. No if, ands, or buts, that’s where I’m going.”
And my husband looked at me and was very surprised that I had such a quick answer on who I was going to. And he was like, “Okay, whatever you want to do. We’ll go wherever you want.” And at that point in time, then he took over any insurance, financial part, it was all him. He said it was up to me to get well, get healthy, and he took on all of the other responsibilities in the family. So, consequently, it is very much about him because he took on everything else.
So, yeah, it’s definitely a partnership between the two of us all the way through. Because then he was also my caregiver when I came home. He stayed with me night after night in the hospital, and then he was my caregiver without a doubt. When I told him about the opportunity to tell my story, he was very moved and wanted me to do it very much so. Because he knows that there are so many women out there who may be on the fence as what to do, and he wanted me to tell my story. Without a doubt.
Jamie DePolo: Thank you for that. I appreciate that. That’s an excellent point. It is the whole family, the whole caring unit, family, friends, everybody is affected. So that’s an excellent point. Now, when you were considering what type of reconstruction to have — would you mind sharing a little bit about how you made that decision.
Deidra Langridge: I had been a pharmaceutical rep for about 16 years in OB-GYN offices and had taken luncheon and sat with ladies around a table, and we’ve had just a generalized conversation for years of, “What if?” Especially if a doctor had to give a patient a diagnosis. And I had always said at my own personal gynecologist’s office, “Oh, no question about it. We would definitely do a double mastectomy. I wouldn’t even think about it.” And then I got that diagnosis. And I caught myself second-guessing. Did I really need a double mastectomy?
And I had only talked to men up unto the point of questioning it. And it wasn’t until I got my female gynecologist, my female niece who is an MFM, maternal-fetal medicine doctor, to confirm to me — and several of my girlfriends and my sister, and my mother to confirm to me — that no, I was not being at all vain or unsure of what I had been stating in the past. That I was very right in making the decision of a double mastectomy.
And I had actually gotten a phone call from my doctor’s office, it was my nurse practitioner, Kelly Brewster, who called, and I stepped out of the restaurant that my husband and I were at and she had a long conversation with me. And when I went back into the restaurant my husband said it was like I was a different person. Because it was an instant understanding and why no, this is completely the right decision to make. She solidified the fact that it wasn’t cosmetic, that it was truly a medical decision to do the double mastectomy. And I am so grateful, because I had pre-cancerous cells in the other breast.
Jamie DePolo: That you didn’t find out about until after.
Deidra Langridge: Yes. I was so grateful that I had made that choice and that decision.
Jamie DePolo: Did you talk to any other women who had had that same type of surgery and reconstruction?
Deidra Langridge: I had spoken with many ladies because of volunteering. I sit with ladies getting infusion. And that’s why I think I also have a good understanding of why, when you asked about my husband’s participation, because I sit with the husbands or the caregivers with the woman getting the chemo after or before they are doing a mastectomy. So yes, I had spoken with several and of all different ages, 31 to 72, probably, in that age group. And had also had conversations of why a single mastectomy or why a double mastectomy. So, I had input that year from many different people.
Jamie DePolo: Your recovery goal was to be able to dance at your son’s wedding, and it sounds like you did very well. You two-stepped, I understand. How did you feel when you were at the wedding and then you started dancing? I mean ,did that kind of make your recovery complete? Did you feel different? Did you feel like, “Yes, I am through this, I achieved my goal”?
Deidra Langridge: It was kind of two-fold. When I walked down the aisle in the church with my husband and my son, that was an extremely defining moment. Because I heard many tears, a lot of crying, and I knew what it was for. And I was so joyous because I had achieved it. I did it. It was just a wonderful feeling, and I was so happy for two reasons. I had raised a wonderful man that I was passing on to a beautiful young lady to have a new family, and God had blessed me with the healing that I needed to be there. And then we get to the reception and it was our turn to dance, and he wanted a country western song. I wanted to dance to “Happy,” and he said no because all of his friends would join us on the dance floor. So, he wanted to dance country western, and my condition was he had to two-step. And so, I taught him how to two-step around the house, and we had a good time practicing.
And he started going around in the typical circle, and I looked at him and I said, “Do you remember our deal?” And he said, “You ready, mom? Are you leading or am I?” And my statement was, “Take it, son, you’re the man.” And we danced half of the dance floor, and it was just a glorious moment. It was my moment with my son. Probably the same as a father walking his daughter down the aisle. Just that highlight of life, and breast cancer did not take that away from me. I got it. It was a phenomenal moment.
Jamie DePolo: That’s wonderful, so wonderful. Now, when you were talking about your story on camera, how did you feel? Did going over all that again, did it dredge up a lot of feelings that maybe you thought you didn’t have or maybe you had them all the time? Was it hard at all? Did it make you feel anything different?
Deidra Langridge: I’ll be very honest, it was extremely hard. Because having the three cancers, I had buried a lot. And going over it, looking around the room at points in time and seeing the reaction to the story of the different folks in the room when it was being recorded was difficult. But it did weigh heavy on my soul. It was good to finally maybe get it all out again, which I have worked through. And I think it’s also helped my daughter, my son, and even my husband work it all through it, final.
I think when they see the video it’ll be a very tearful moment, but hopefully a joyful moment, because there was one part when we were watching Pierce and Jamie’s wedding video, which my husband and I had not seen — which we were just blown away it had been over two years and we hadn’t seen the video. But when the picture came up and it was my whole family, I broke down because that was my moment to get there. So, it brought up a lot, but it was something that needed to finally surface and be handled, and I’m very grateful.
I’m in a group of women called Unite. And it’s an empowering group of women that Lisa McKenzie is the producer of and it’s an incredible group. And there’s this line, and finally she came out that, it says, “Cancer doesn’t get the best of you, it brings out the best of you.” And I think this video experience has really brought out the best of me.
Jamie DePolo: It sounds like it has. And I was going to ask you if there was one part of making the video that was very memorable for you, it sounds like watching your son’s wedding video would be that moment.
Deidra Langridge: Yes, it really was.
Jamie DePolo: It’s interesting that you and your husband hadn’t watched the video before. Was there a conscious reason or you just never got around to it?
Deidra Langridge: You know looking back…and I haven’t made the book, like, going on Shutterfly, because I have the disc to make the album for them in a heart book and I haven’t done that yet. I think it’s because of what we had gone through from December to their wedding. That it would’ve brought up too many feelings, and we just didn’t do it. Jamie and her mother, and even myself, we had planned this wedding for a year and a half. And for breast cancer to sneak up on us, in Roy and mine’s eyes, 4 months ahead and the confirmation 12 weeks ahead, just really shot a hole in it. And I did everything I could to not pull the light away from what they had worked so hard for.
Jamie DePolo: If a woman came to you today and said she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, what would you say to her?
Deidra Langridge: The first thing I would ask her is, “When did you find out, have you made any decisions,” or what doctors said. Because that’s really important. And I can’t influence them on what they should do because I don’t use the word “should” anymore. I work very hard not to. I would ask her had she ever thought about what she would do in this situation in the past or if she had any exposure to anyone in her family or friends who had breast cancer. That’s really important. Because if someone has knowledge, then you can work from there. If they don’t, then you have to build from that point forward.
And that’s what I do in the infusion center. Because actually there are so many that I’ve even come across that have started chemo immediately, but they don’t know where they’re going from that point. They haven’t made the decision of a lumpectomy, single mastectomy or a double, or reconstruction or implant, or own tissue, and I tell my story to them in person. And fortunately, I know so many women in our group of Unite and their stories, I can relay the different ladies’ stories and connect them directly to other women locally for them to talk to.
Jamie DePolo: You’re a valuable resource it sounds like.
Deidra Langridge: I try to be. I try to be.
Jamie DePolo: Deidra, thank you so much. This has been a lovely experience for me. It was a pleasure to get to know you, and thank you so much for sharing your story with all the visitors on our website.
Deidra Langridge: Thank you very much. Bless you, darling.