News / Toronto

Second BRA Day hopes to lift breast cancer survivors into comfort zone

Anna Borenstein relied on Google to help make the decision  whether to go through with a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to treat her breast cancer.

Not knowing what to expect, she spent hours surfing the web trying to find images of women who had undergone the same treatment.

“The reality is never like pictures, and the pictures don’t tell you a whole lot about the process, and what I know now compared to what I knew going in is monumental,” she said. “Had I actually seen reconstructions in the flesh, to actually be able to see up close and to handle them, it would’ve taken away a lot of the anxiety and unexpectedness.”

Borenstein, 52, said she came across plenty of information when it came to treatment, chemotherapy and radiation, but when it came to dealing with the aftermath of a mastectomy or breast reconstruction, she found nothing.

“I felt so isolated in going through this,” she said. “Online communities talk about anything but reconstruction. Canadian online support groups again deal with treatment and to a certain extent depression, but not survival.”

The second annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day is looking to change that. At a Show and Tell Lounge hosted by Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada in Toronto on Wednesday at the Toronto Reference Library, a number of women who have undergone the procedure will be baring their breasts in a “comfortable, private and professionally put-together lounge,” so that women mulling over their options can see firsthand what it’s really like.

“It’s different because there are many ways to do it. You can do it with breast implants, you can use your own bodies’ tissues or a combination of both,” said BRA Day founder Dr. Mitchell Brown. “So the  best way to understand and appreciate that is to see and feel it herself.”

Brown, who’s been practising plastic and reconstructive surgery for more than 17 years, says he was stunned by the number of women who’d come to him years after a mastectomy saying they never knew they could get a breast reconstruction or just couldn’t get access to it in their area.

The event is only in its second year, but it’s already spread to more than 25 countries. In the U.S., singer-songwriter Jewel, a spokesperson of the event there, even penned a new song, called Flower, to help raise awareness about the importance of breast-reconstruction options for survivors.

“Reconstruction is a huge part of the healing process,” Jewel told The Associated Press. “It’s not just vanity. It’s part of what makes us women. It’s part of our identity as women. Patients should at least be informed about their options.”

Things to know about breast reconstruction:

•    A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation it had before the procedure

•    Incision lines will be visible, whether it’s from reconstruction or mastectomy

The options for reconstruction include:

•    Using a donor’s tissue or a woman’s own muscle, fat and skin to reconstruct a complete     breast or to support a breast implant.

•    The tissue expansion method, which stretches healthy skin to cover the breast implant.

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