After being diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, Karla Karch is excited to share her story in hopes of informing women of the options available to them when it comes to breast reconstruction.
“I share my story because people who get diagnosed with breast cancer need to know all of their options,” says the former Olympian as she prepares to speak to over 400 people gathered at Edmonton’s first BRA Day event held Oct. 20, 2015. "They need to have support to make a decision that is right for them, in the time that is right for them.”
“Cancer is an equalizer and it does not discriminate,” says Karla. “I’m a prime example of that. It’s not in my family and there is no history of it. If I can help another person by sharing my story, I want to be able to do that.”
Karla was treated at the Misericordia Community Hospital and has undergone several surgeries through her journey with breast cancer.
Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Edmonton involved cancer patients such as Karla sharing their stories, along with surgeons sharing their knowledge and options available to women, all with the intent of spreading awareness and educating women facing breast cancer.
A number of women at the event, including Karla, say they are blessed to have been cared for by Dr. Blair Mehling, Plastic Surgeon at the Misericordia Community Hospital, a renowned facility for breast care in Alberta, including immediate breast reconstruction. Blair has been practising there for 15 years and is passionate about empowering women with knowledge and improving their access to care.
“It’s high time that we talk about restoring quality of life for women after breast cancer,” says Blair. “It’s about ensuring that women find out about reconstructive options. They may not necessarily want it, but a lot of women do not get it because they are not aware of their options."
“I meet women who say that they have been walking around for 10 years after their mastectomy, who did not know that reconstruction was an option for them,“ says Dr. Lisa Korus, Plastic Surgeon at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital. Lisa wants to spread the word that reconstructive options are not only available, but also offered at no cost to the patient, because the procedure is paid for by Alberta Health. She adds reconstruction can give women the self-confidence they had before having a breast removed.
BRA Day Edmonton ended with a Show & Tell Lounge, an intimate experience for women in which survivors demonstrated topless exactly what they have experienced through reconstruction. Organizers are calling Edmonton’s first BRA Day a huge success. October 20 was also officially proclaimed BRA Day in Edmonton by Mayor Don Iveson.
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