Breast cancer awareness month: BRA day

When Angelina Jolie had her preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, the world was abuzz with her decision. Doctors applauded her pro-active decision and others, like Melissa Etheridge, criticized her for making a fear-based choice. But what got left out of a lot of the discussions was her choice to have reconstructive surgery.

From left: Dr. Mitchell Brown, Theresa Quick and Natalie Witkin. Photo by Neal Burstyn, Images With Impact

Most women—and men—don’t realize how many choices still need to be made after you’ve decided to have a mastectomy. Should you even have breast reconstruction surgery? If so, do you want implants or to use your own tissue? What about your nipples? You can choose to have nipple reconstruction or you can get 3D nipple tattoos. Then what about breast size—do you go bigger, smaller or stay the same?

Luckily back in 2011, Dr. Mitchell Brown, a Toronto plastic surgeon, started BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day. The point of the event, which is now held in 25 countries, is to educate women about the many options available to them post-mastectomy.

Surprisingly only 1 in 10 women opt for reconstruction. According to the BRA website, many women choose not to have reconstruction. But there are also a lot of women who either aren’t informed or don’t have access to reconstructive surgery. That’s why BRA day was started, to tell women about the many options available to them.

Theresa Quick attended BRA day two years ago. She had a double mastectomy back in November 2011 after finding out she had the BRCA 1 gene. Two weeks before her surgery she attended BRA day, calling it a “pivotal experience.”

“I hadn’t known what to expect–what the implants might look like or feel like,” she says. “I was very nervous.”

Most doctors’ offices can how you photos of women post-reconstruction surgery, but BRA day takes it a step further. The Show and Tell Lounge let’s women considering their reconstructive options meet other women who’ve had the procedure, and actually see what their breasts look like now. You can even ask permission to touch their breasts to see what breast and nipple reconstruction feels like.

“I was able to see and touch implants in women after they were inserted under the pectoral muscle–a huge difference compared to the water balloon they show you in the doctor’s office,” Quick says.

This year’s event is being held on October 16 in communities across Canada. If you can’t make it to an event, you can join a live-stream where doctors and post-op patients will answer your questions.

For Quick, attending BRA day was the first time she felt prepared for her double-mastectomy.

“BRA Day provided me with the information and support that I desperately needed, and helped relieve the fear and anxiety I was feeling at the time,” she says. “I don’t know if I would have been able to cope the same way if I hadn’t participated.”

Will you be going to a BRA day event in your community? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter!