Culture 26 August 2018
Life has had its ups and downs, but through it all Janet Denlinger, Rod Rohrich and I have been blessed. We wanted to give back and give a voice to a cause affecting women who are not as fortunate as we are.
What we realized is that women are not obtaining the advice and counsel they require to address the continued healing and adaptations that are a consequence of such surgery.
While the treatment of breast cancer has progressed, one third of all breast cancer patients will inevitably have a mastectomy. In addition, more women are being diagnosed with the BRCA gene mutation and will opt for a risk-reducing mastectomy. It’s crucial that the medical community help educate and inform patients about their reconstruction options as an integral part of cancer treatment. To that end we learned that educating women about their post-mastectomy options is of particular importance, especially when considering that up to 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are unsure of — or unaware of — their reconstruction options. Many of those who desire this surgery do not have sufficient insurance or other resources to pay for it. And while every woman who has had a mastectomy might not feel the need for reconstructive surgery, they need to consider all their options.
What we realized is that women are not obtaining the advice and counsel they require to address the continued healing and adaptations that are a consequence of such surgery. The mastectomy itself is just a part of the recovery process, both psychologically and otherwise. Whereas the restorative breast surgery is an integral part of total physical and emotional healing for many breast cancer survivors in order for them to feel whole again and to restore their self-esteem.
There are many breast cancer causes and organizations that are dedicated to education, funding research and finding a cure and it has been through their efforts— from charity walks to pink products— that they have provided such a necessary service to the patients.
However, only a handful of organizations focus on providing funding and support for reconstructive surgery. Because of this, we founded the Alliance in Reconstructive Surgery (AiRS) Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Our mission is to be a resource and a support system for the women who have lost their breasts as a result of breast cancer, educating them on reconstruction options, as well as their health insurance coverage, and ultimately assisting them with the cost of reconstructive surgery itself, if qualified. AiRS makes it possible for women to consider all options regardless of their economic situation. AiRS also strives to be a resource and provide education about reconstruction for physicians and medical communities, as well as caregivers and advocacy organizations.
To help accomplish our mission, the AiRS Patient Advocacy Program is an essential service for patients, who may not have support systems or their families and caregivers to offer emotional support and help navigate the often frustrating and overwhelming health care system.
Who are our advocates?
Whether or not an advocate has any personal experience with breast cancer, an advocate is simply a caring person who is willing to listen, learn, and help someone who is going through a life-threatening illness.
educate patients about their options following mastectomy by providing resources and referrals.
Being there to lend an understanding ear and offer support and words of encouragement are wonderful gifts to patients who have already endured so much. Advocates make a difference in the lives of these women by supporting those who need help navigating an integral part of breast cancer treatment and recovery.
The primary goal of the Patient Advocacy Program is to:
Advocate and assist patients in navigating the health care system, promote patients’ rights, and speak on behalf of patients when necessary
Ensure that patients receive appropriate and timely care and financial assistance when needed
Educate patients about their options following mastectomy by providing resources and referrals
Provide compassionate support to help women through the physical and emotional recovery from breast cancer, and provide support to families and caregivers
AiRS relies on Advocates who commit to serve to meet the following expectations:
Provide empathetic and sensitive, discreet timely support and interaction with patients
Commit to learn about the various types of breast cancer, breast reconstruction
Understand the AiRS patient application and acceptance process and be willing to help patients through the application process, if necessary
Stay current with information about AiRS
To support or make a donation, visit www.airsfoundation.org
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.