October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and ELLE Editor-in-Chief Nina Garcia has partnered with AiRS (Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery) Foundation to speak about her own experience. Garcia, who underwent a preventative double mastectomy last year, serves as an ambassador for the non-profit. Founded by Janet Denlinger, Morgan Hare, and Dr. Rod Rohrich, the organization financially supports women who have had mastectomies in getting breast reconstruction. AiRS also offers education, resources, and grants for patients as they weigh their surgical options.
“I was drawn into supporting the Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery Foundation because of my own experience,” Garcia says in an interview for the organization. “In 2015, I discovered that I had a gene mutation that put me at high risk for breast cancer. After years of closely monitoring my condition under the care of excellent doctors, I made one of the most important decisions I’ve ever had to make—to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. I decided to have reconstructive surgery on the same day.” A difficult recovery process was made bearable by dedicated doctors and Garcia’s support system, she explains. “Unfortunately, not every woman has the same access that I did. Hopefully, with the help of the AiRS Foundation, this can begin to change.”
Garcia disclosed her BRCA gene mutation diagnosis and decision to undergo surgery in an ELLE essay shortly before the operation. She wrote about how finding an “incredible community of strong women” who also had mastectomies helped her feel confident about the process. “For the first time in years, a dark cloud lifted, and I felt a sense of relief and clarity about my choice,” Garcia continued, a feeling which inspired the telling of her own story. “So when I went into that operating room I felt, ‘I can do this,'” she says in the AiRS video.
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Breast reconstruction played a large role in Garcia’s healing process and is healthcare all women should have access to, she explains. “The AiRS Foundation’s mission speaks to me as an immigrant from Colombia, knowing all too well there are so many women in Colombia and around the world who have no access to mammograms and they’re unnecessarily dying from breast cancer,” she says. AiRS is one of the non-profits working to close the gap and has “done an amazing job educating (women) on surgical options, assisting them with understanding health insurance—what kind of coverage they have or not, and ultimately assisting them with the cost of reconstructive surgery,” Garcia says.
In a month dedicated to educating women about breast cancer and searching for a cure, Garcia says she’s grateful for her own experience: “I know how important options are when it comes to breast cancer, the BRCA gene, and undergoing surgery because I had those options.”
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