Calgary

Hope for women seeking breast reconstruction after cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of the disease among Canadian women, yet only 10 per cent of those who undergo a mastectomy choose replacement.

'This is not for vanity. This is not cosmetic surgery.'

A breast cancer survivor, M'liss Edwards attends the BRA Day event every year. (Kate Adach/CBC)

This story contains a photo of a post-op mastectomy

Breast cancer is the most common form of the disease among Canadian women, yet only 10 per cent of those who undergo a mastectomy choose replacement.

The sixth annual Calgary BRA Day — an acronym for Breast Reconstruction Awareness — for both surgeons and survivors hoped to increase awareness around options.

"It's just nice and such a blessing to have all these other people who are walking the same road you're on, they're on the same path," said Antoinette Simmonds, who was diagnosed in 2013.

"That's heartwarming."

Breast cancer survivor Antoinette Simmonds was diagnosed in 2013. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Simmonds had no idea what her body would look like without one of her breasts.

"I remember waking up from surgery just not wanting to look, not wanting to look down," she said.

She wasn't prepared for the loss she would feel.

"Of not being whole, like my being isn't whole," she said. "It still doesn't feel whole."

M'liss Edwards comes to the BRA Day event every year.

"I have a T-shirt that says 'Yes they're fake, my real ones tried to kill me,'" she said.

Surgeons and patients took part in the sixth annual BRA — Breast Reconstruction Awareness — Day event at Foothills hospital. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Edwards is at ease with her post-surgery body and volunteered in the show-and-tell lounge, where survivors show how the implants look and how they work.

The two were among nearly 400 people who attended the event at Foothills Medical Centre.

An organizer, Dr. Claire Temple-Oberle, wants Albertans to understand the implants' impact.

"This is not for vanity," she said.

"This is not cosmetic surgery."

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