Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day10/25/2022
When Cait Kelley found a lump in her breast, her doctor assured her it was “probably nothing,” she says. After trusting her gut and demanding a mammogram, that lump became “definitely something” in the span of a week. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer at 33, a diagnosis that often comes with a three-to four-year prognosis.
As anyone can imagine, the news was concerning. She spent countless hours researching the cancer diagnosis and looking into clinical trials, treatment and more. Cait was prepared for the worst entering her appointment with her oncologist, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon. To her surprise, her doctors looked past the outdated statistics and instead, they saw an otherwise healthy 33-year-old woman and told her they were going to treat her with “curative intent,” essentially with recovery as an option.
Treatment with Curative Intent
Cait was treated with aggressive chemotherapy and surgery. She spent six months fighting through eight rounds of chemo and medication, and at the end of 2020, her tumor was miraculously gone.
Due to the fear of the cancer coming back, Cait was ready to get a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. When she stepped into her appointment with her plastic surgeon, he both validated her concerns and gave her all the options before she made her decision.
Decisions Based on Hope
Cait prayed to the universe to give her a sign on what decision to make. The night before she had to decide, she read a quote in “Becoming” by Michelle Obama that stood out to her: “Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility.”
This brought her clarity, and on Dec. 29, 2020, a day before her 34th birthday, she had a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
Two years later, she’s happy with her decision because she feels physically and mentally improved. Because the doctors lead with hope, she is now declared NED (no evidence of disease).
Celebrating BRA Day
On Oct. 19, 2022, Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) celebrated Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day by hosting an event where Cait shared her story with staff. BRA Day is a national observance designed to promote education, awareness and access to information regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction options.
Breast reconstruction is often made possible through the generosity of tissue donors. Just one tissue donor can help up to five people with reconstruction following mastectomy.
Cait received a life-changing gift of tissue, though not during her reconstruction surgery. In 2016, she underwent surgery to repair hip dysplasia, and thanks to a generous donor, was able to run again.
“I was sidelined from so many things, and that person gave me my life back,” said Cait.
We host events like these to make sure women and men of all ages have information on breast cancer and know what to look for during a self-examination. After Cait’s presentation, the afternoon continued with activities like making cards for patients with cancer, signing a pink ribbon in honor of a loved one and a fun photobooth to help spread this message across social media platforms.
To register as a tissue donor and give hope, please visit DonateLifeAZ.org.