One Nonprofit is Sticking to its Mission for Patients With Breast Cancer During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country, patients with breast cancer who were scheduled to have reconstructive surgery, or were considering the procedure, have been forced to wait until all elective surgeries can begin again. However, the AiRS Foundation continues to educate women on their options for breast reconstruction.
BY Morgan Hare
PUBLISHED May 12, 2020
Patients with breast cancer who are seeking reconstructive surgery have been forced to wait as a result of elective surgeries being delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the pandemic hasn’t stopped the AiRS Foundation from sticking to its mission of educating women about their reconstruction options and helping them meet their co-pays or aiding those without any insurance.
Recently, in an interview with CURE®, Morgan Hare, a founding member of the AiRS Foundation, discussed how the organization is still working with patients even though elective surgeries, like breast reconstruction after cancer, have been delayed.
“We are still accepting applications and we're still encouraging people to apply to us and we're funding surgeries,” Hare said. “Last week we funded four surgeries. Now a lot of them are being put on hold and that's OK … we're encouraging people to continue to apply for us, even though their surgeries might not be now, they might be delayed, they might as well be in the cue because eventually this will end and their surgeries will take place.”
AiRS foundation is an acronym for the alliance in reconstructive surgery, and my business partner, and long-time friend, we have been friends for 46 years. I say this: everybody has ups and downs in their lives, but at the end of the day we were blessed, and we wanted to do something to give back. And we wanted to give a voice to something that had no voice, which is hard to because there are so many foundations out there dealing with so many different issues.
I wrote to a doctor I'm friends with, Dr. Rod Rohrich, who is a plastic surgeon here in Dallas, and he said that up of 70% of women who have mastectomies due to breast cancer either don't know about their options, they don't have money to meet their co-pays or they have no insurance. And we were sort of surprised to hear this because most of the people we know have really good insurance and no one ever talked about this being an issue, but all of a sudden when you start to talk to the undeserved population, of which is big in this country, they don't really know about their reconstruction options; the doctors, the breast surgeons don't necessarily tell them about it, and even if they have insurance, these people we are helping are making $30,000 a year and they have a family of two or four, so meeting a $5,000 co-pay is virtually impossible for them. So, we really tried to educate women about their reconstruction options and that if they can't meet their co-pays or if they have no insurance, we work with them to enable them to get reconstructive surgery.
It's very important for women, because some women prefer to go flat, and if you want to go flat that's great, go flat. But, on the other hand we live in a breast society, and you see everyone walking on the red carpet with very low-cut dresses and this is the message we send to everybody. So, it's really about helping a woman restore her self-esteem and helping her to feel better about herself and that's really what we do, is we help women to move on and feel better.
Well, it's really to educate women about their reconstruction options and to help them meet their co-pays or pay for their surgery. I mean that's really what we're doing here is educating women and allowing them to know that there is hope for them someplace.
Well we are still accepting applications and we're still encouraging people to apply to us, and we're funding surgeries. I mean last week we funded four surgeries, now a lot of them are being put on hold and that's OK, because we have advocates still talking to them making sure they're OK and doing OK while they're waiting, so we're encouraging people to continue to apply for us, even though their surgeries might not be now, they might be delayed, they might as well be in the cue because eventually this will end and their surgeries will take place. What we're also hearing, and we're addressing this, is if I put off having my reconstructive surgery, what does that mean? If I put off having my mastectomy what does that mean? Because in these times, a lot of those things are really being delayed, so we're doing a few things to really try to educate the public. One is we're continuing our focus on social media, to allow people to know that we're and still actively helping people, last week we did our first live Facebook event and we had Dr. Jonathan Bank who does reconstructive surgery out of New York and Melissa Berry, who has a site called the Cancer Fashionista, and they answered a lot of people's questions about where do I stand with my reconstructive surgery, what happens if my expanders get left in, we were really trying to answer some of the questions that come up.