October 29, 2015
Exactly one year ago, Mariette Thibert was sitting in an auditorium filled with women who had come to learn about breast reconstruction from London’s leading plastic surgeons. She was scared, uncertain and still in shock. Only two weeks earlier she had received news that she would need a bilateral mastectomy.
"I remember thinking what am I doing here? I'm not supposed to be in this room needing to listen to doctors talk about procedures and choices. Then it hit me, yes, this is about me. I looked around the room at the faces and realized that was exactly where I needed to be. I am one of "them" – a woman facing breast cancer and I know so little about what lies ahead of me.”
This year, Mariette, inspired by what she heard and learned at Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day a year ago, was among the speakers now helping others facing the same difficult journey by finding courage in her experience.
“At that moment I knew I wasn't alone and that I was surrounded by women who were probably feeling a lot of the same feelings as me,” 48-year-old Mariette told the large crowd about her BRA Day experience last year. “We were being confronted with so many unknowns. I needed to ask so many questions and get so many answers. So I decided that I better listen and learn so I could be better prepared to make informed decisions about what was happening to me. I hope that by telling my story you may gain something that will help you in some way on your journey.”
This is the goal, and power, of BRA Day, a national campaign to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Hosted on Oct. 21 by St. Joseph’s Health Care London and London Health Sciences Centre, BRA Day allows women to learn about reconstruction options directly from plastic surgeons, hear from women who have undergone the surgery and view real results first hand in the women’s only ‘show and tell lounge’.
Despite studies that show breast reconstruction following mastectomy can have a positive effect on a woman’s quality of life, only one in 10 Canadian women will ever undergo the surgery, according to Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support, national sponsors of BRA Day. A large factor is a lack of awareness and information.
More than 200 people turned out for this year’s event at St. Joseph’s Hospital, making it one of the largest events in the country. They come for the information but they leave with much more.
“Watching the visual presentations, visiting the show and tell lounge and listening to the explanations of the various procedures and options reinforced my knowledge and reaffirmed my decision” to have bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, said Mariette. “Knowledge is power and with that knowledge I gained confidence in my choices and the medical team."