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This Non-Profit Is Funding Reconstructive Surgery for Women who have had Mastectomies

Culture

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

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.