Friday, 28 October 2016 08:00

New South Zone BRA Day will help women and families

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Having to face a breast cancer diagnosis is scary enough, but women also have to think about what the future holds in terms of having a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

One Medicine Hat woman is hoping to make those decisions seem a little easier by helping organize a Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day which is a program of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The first BRA Day was held in October 2011 and now more than 30 countries participate worldwide.
The event geared for the entire South Zone of Alberta Health Services, is set to take place Saturday, Nov. 5. It will get underway at 1 p.m., finishing
up at 4 p.m. and take place in the Rehabilitation Support Services Level 3 of the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.
The goal of this event is to provide women with breast cancer and their families with information so they can decide what options are best for them, including mastectomy and/or reconstruction.
“The event is for women who are thinking of a mastectomy or breast reconstruction, women who may have already gone through breast reconstruction, medical personnel (i.e. doctors and nurses) that deal with women facing breast cancer, partners and spouses of someone going through breast cancer, family, friends and anyone interested,” explains Sandy Czernick, BRA Day co-ordinator.
The event is a partnership between the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Margery E. Yuill and Jack Ady Cancer Centres.
Czernick has volunteered with Calgary BRA Day since they started holding them in October of 2013. That’s because in 2012 she received her own breast cancer diagnosis.
That year she went to see her previous doctor in Calgary with a complaint of headaches, but had her physical done at the same time.
When asked when her last mammogram was, Czernick said 2011, but her doctor agreed to send her for another one as she hadn’t seen her since 2006.
“The mammogram came back with indications that a biopsy was needed,” added Czernick.
Due to the type of biopsy needed, Czernick had it done in Calgary at the Women’s Health Centre at the Foothills Hospital.
“I just happened to be pointed to the right surgeon and the right plastic surgeon and my options were all given to me, including having a double mastectomy rather than a single,” explains Czernick.
“I was diagnosed in July, had my surgery the end of September with immediate reconstruction and started chemotherapy the end of December.”
Czernick’s cancer was determined to be aggressive so four rounds of chemotherapy was administered as well as 17 rounds of Herceptin injections and Tamoxifin for 10 years. She says her health has since been good and she works full-time, runs, cycles, swims and plays with her grandchildren.
“When I started talking to women at BRA Day in Calgary, I realized that not all women were given the choices I was, both in Calgary and in Medicine Hat,” she points out.
She began discussions with health personnel in the South Zone, as well as her plastic surgeon Dr. Claire Temple-Oberle from Tom Baker Cancer Centre about holding a BRA day in southern Alberta.
“Since we do not have the resources in Medicine Hat to hold this event, the South Zone Bra Day is being done jointly with the Calgary group and they will be bringing a contingent of doctors, residents, fellows and volunteers to help us with this,” she adds.
Officials with AHS South Zone have all been extremely open and helpful in planning the event, says Czernick.
BRA Day is about people learning more about options and networking with care providers who perform the surgeries.
Women also have a chance to connect with others who have undergone reconstruction, so they can better understand what realistically is possible.
Two of the most popular events during the day are the women’s only show and tell and the couple’s only show and tell.
“Women’s only is where women who have already had breast reconstruction can answer women’s questions and show the results of their reconstruction,” explains Czernick. “The Co-ed Show and Tell is where women who have already had reconstruction, along with their partners, are willing to answer questions and show their reconstruction results to women and to men accompanied by a female companion.”
A big part of the event is about sharing information and assuring women and their partners or families are informed.
Statistics show that following mastectomy for breast cancer, only nine per cent of Canadian women will undergo breast reconstruction.
A large factor contributing to this low rate is a lack of awareness and information, adds Czernick, as about 40 per cent of women who decided against breast reconstruction felt they were not adequately informed about their options.  
“I believe it is important that we have the options made available to us in order to make the best possible decision for ourselves. Being informed also makes the journey easier and knowledge is empowering,” says Czernick.
She hopes the event will prove to be a success and attract numerous participants. If that is the case, organizers would like to see Lethbridge host Bra Day for the South Zone next year.
Get details about BRA Day, which is free, and register online at:

Read 1373 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 13:27
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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