On September 18th, I received an invitation from Dr. Saul Berger & New Age Aesthetics to stop by their offices to pick up a special skin care gift bag in honor of BRA Day. Dr. Berger is the surgeon who did my breast reconstruction after my double mastectomy so I appreciated the invitation to see him and his wonderful staff of professionals. But, what the heck was BRA Day?
I know what reconstruction meant to me. It was that final step that made me feel whole again. It meant that I did not have to look in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and see the scars left behind from the devastation of breast cancer. I never want a woman to feel less than whole physically, psychologically or sexually because of what breast cancer took from her.
The very next day, I got an email about Dee Dee Ricks who is an activist and philanthropist who supports many charities. She is chairman of the board of the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute and in that role, successfully lobbied Congress to reenact the Patient Navigation Act as part of sweeping health care reform policy. In that email, I was also informed that she is the Co-Chair and Ambassador for BRA Day 2012. I also learned that BRA stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness and it is supported by The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The Plastic Surgery Foundation, along with 20 other countries that are increasing awareness for breast reconstruction options after mastectomy. Now this really had my attention!
On August 19th, I wrote about the organization, My Hope Chest, a non-profit organization that supports women who want reconstruction but who may not either have the personal finances or the insurance coverage to pay for it. However, this organization is struggling because they have no financial support to keep going much longer. To me, it was immediately apparent that breast reconstruction after cancer is an area that is extremely underserved in all of the campaigns that raise awareness and funds during breast cancer awareness month and I very much want to make a difference in this arena.
There is a new ribbon in support of breast cancer reconstruction that was designed by the My Hope Chest foundation and hopefully will help with awareness of the need for help for those who can’t afford the cost of reconstruction. The colors in the breast reconstruction ribbon transition and transform, just like the survivors that My Hope Chest helps to become whole again. The ribbon goes from pink – the original breast cancer color, to white – known as the “light” or the power of healing. The white blends to yellow, the color of hope, sunshine and new beginnings.
I know what reconstruction meant to me. It was that final step that made me feel whole again. It meant that I did not have to look in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and see the scars left behind from the devastation of breast cancer. I never want a woman to feel less than whole physically, psychologically or sexually because of what breast cancer took from her. Breast cancer does alter you for the rest of your life but no one needs a visible reminder every day in order to remember.
I have also learned that more and more young women are dealing with breast cancer. I can’t imagine, as a young person, having to go through a mastectomy or two and not being able to have reconstruction afterward. I know that some women do make this choice and I completely respect that but I want a woman to be able to have a choice regarding reconstruction.
I have one other reason that motivates me to fight for this cause. I had a friend who refused to have breast cancer surgery because she refused to give up her breasts. She was part of many different studies that were searching for alternatives to surgery but nothing else worked and she ultimately lost her life as a result. Had the technology that is used today been available when she was alive and had she had the money for reconstruction, I do believe that the outcome would have been different. So, Diane, this one’s for you! I don’t want any woman to feel that she has to make the choice of life or death that you did because reconstruction is not available to her.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.