Dr. Paul Parker, Paramus, NJ Celebrates Breast Cancer Support Group’s 15th Anniversary

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Image Reborn Uplifts Spirits after Breast Cancer Support Group Helps Heal the Whole Patient

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Buffinton and her dog Gracie

When Rita Buffinton recalls her medical procedures after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer 11 years ago, uplifting memories come to mind. Not that her mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery didn’t present a daunting challenge. But through it all Buffinton had something bolstering the love and compassion of family and close friends that enabled her to overcome the physical ordeal and emerge emotionally whole again. That something was Image Reborn, a patient support group of women with a collective mission.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Image Reborn began at the Paramus, NJ, offices of Dr. Paul Parker, a plastic surgeon. New Jersey doctor and his staff knew they provided everything possible to help patients understand breast reconstruction procedures and the subsequent recovery. But they also knew patients had concerns that only other women who had the same experiences could address.

Image Reborn functions as a resource for communicating the latest information about medical techniques, recovery tips, nutrition, fitness and any other topic members want to discuss. It also provides a forum for women to share thoughts about the impact breast reconstruction has had on their personas, relationships and physical intimacy. Since society places so much emphasis on appearance—with breasts a particular focus of popular culture—women who lose breasts to cancer sometimes feel particularly vulnerable. After reconstruction, some women seek reassurance that their identities remain intact no matter how their physical appearance might have changed.

“Physicians and staff members do a terrific job of explaining the surgical part of what to expect but every woman goes through a unique, individual experience,” said Buffinton. “If someone comes to a meeting feeling down and upset, we want them to leave feeling better. That’s the goal of Image Reborn.”

Laura Brown has worked with Dr. Parker for 23 years and from her vantage point as the surgical scheduler she can attest to the care the practice takes educating patients. She’s also seen how Image Reborn has eased the minds of patients. “From the very beginning, we would tell patients about the group. We saw it was a great source of comfort to those who were obviously distraught over their diagnosis.”

Dr. Paul Parker, Paramus, NJ no longer performs breast reconstructions on hospitalized cancer patients but his office still hosts the monthly meetings of Image Reborn. The group will mark its 15-year milestone with an anniversary celebration on May 12.

As she looks forward to the event, Buffinton fondly remembers the solace she felt joining Image Reborn. “What impressed me when I first went to a meeting was ‘Wow! These people look good, they’re OK,’” she said. “They were there, they were laughing, they were living, which gives people hope.”

She said she’s formed “lasting friendships with the women I’ve met through Image Reborn and we’ve used a lot of laughter as therapy. I believe that’s a major contributor to healing. Not to say there aren’t tears.”

She’s also developed a close relationship with plastic surgeon, New Jersey Dr. Parker, who has treated several members of Buffinton’s family over the years. “He’s become more than a skilled surgeon to us; he’s a trusted friend and compassionate adviser.”

Buffington has used humor therapy in her volunteer work as a clown for the Tomorrows Children Institute. She cherishes the time she spends entertaining the young patients and providing comic relief for the staff. “The hospital loves it because it puts laughter back into their lives.”

A longtime resident of Ramsey, Buffinton is entering a new phase of life as she and her husband relocate to a home near their son in Florida. She intends to stay in touch through email and telephone with the friends she’s made thanks to Image Reborn and hopes to continue performing as a clown at a Florida hospital.

“After going through it, you want to give back,” Buffinton noted. “We all want to help new people as they go through what we faced. It’s a circle of support.”

Please visit http://www.parkercenter.net for more information on Dr. Paul Parker and reconstructive plastic surgery. New Jersey patients can call (201) 967-1212.

About Dr. Parker

Dr. Paul Parker has over 20 years of surgical experience and is a highly skilled New Jersey plastic surgeon. He has been named as one of the top surgeons in the field by Consumer’s Research Council of America and served as the Assistant Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at the New York University Medical Center. His patients report an excellent level of patient care and understanding throughout their time under his care. He currently serves as the Medical Director of the Parker Center, a New Jersey plastic surgery center. To learn more, visit http://www.parkercenter.net.

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