Bras bring bucks for reconstruction surgery for uninsured

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published October 24, 2012

 Karlee Smith designed this compression garment worn after reconstruction surgery, which a volunteer purchased for $10 to decorate and put up for auction.

Karlee Smith designed this compression garment worn after reconstruction surgery, which a volunteer purchased for $10 to decorate and put up for auction.

More and more women are surviving breast cancer, but the uninsured and disadvantaged often must go it alone after surgery — minus a breast. 

So UnaSource Surgery Center in Troy and Dr. Ellen Janetzke, who has an office in Birmingham and works at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, teamed up to help My Hope Chest raise awareness of breast reconstruction with the Decorate a Bra event for Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day in Janetzke’s Birmingham office Oct. 17.

Volunteers paid $10 to decorate bras that were put up for bid in a silent auction and were up for voting in a contest. Proceeds supported My Hope Chest, a nonprofit group that provides breast reconstruction for uninsured and underprivileged breast cancer survivors.

Alisa Savoretti founded My Hope Chest. Savoretti was an uninsured breast cancer survivor who returned to her job as a showgirl in Las Vegas following a mastectomy, five months after finishing chemotherapy. She had to wait three years for her own reconstruction surgery and said she realized what a huge gap there was in treatment for uninsured and under-insured women who undergo a mastectomy. With help from members of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she founded the 501c3 nonprofit group in December 2003.

Some of the decorated bras at the event featured a Halloween theme, including the Boo Hoo Bra, which had ghosts, skeletons and pumpkins with black lace. Some lit up, and many featured pink, the adopted color of breast cancer awareness.

Karlee Smith, who has designed bras for Victoria’s Secret, created a compression bra for reconstruction patients after a personal experience of paying $80 for a compression garment that shriveled after three washings. Her compression garments are available through physicians offices and were among those decorated for the event.

Kelly Watts, administrative assistant for UnaSource Surgery, coordinated the Decorate A Bra event.

“We had fun decorating the bras,” she said. The event raised $2,000 for My Hope Chest, and Watts noted that this year was the first time BRA Day was a national event. She said UnaSource plans to participate next year as well.

One of the bras that received the most votes in the bra contest featured timepieces and watchbands as straps. Watts said that Metals in Time in Royal Oak won the auction for the bra and plans to display it in the store to raise awareness of My Hope Chest. The store also donated a Michael Kors watch for the winner of the bra contest.

Janetzke said she became involved in BRA Day after she saw in a recent study at University of Michigan Health System that seven out of 10 women did not know their reconstructive options.

“It makes a person whole again,” Janetzke said of reconstruction surgery.

For information on My Hope Chest, check online at www.myhopechest.org.