This Breast Cancer Awareness month I would like to once again introduce our readers to My Hope Chest (www.myhopechest.org), the ONLY National NonProfit helping uninsured breast cancer survivors obtain breast reconstruction surgery.
Have you ever heard of a Lopsided Showgirl?
Alisa Savoretti, the Founder of My Hope Chest, was a Vegas Showgirl dancing on stage while stuffing her costumes post-chemo. She did not have insurance to afford the series of surgeries need to reconstruct her chest. Rachel interviewed her about losing a body part – getting it back – and turning that experience into an organization trying to help others.
Rachel: When were you first diagnosed with breast cancer?
Alisa: In the fall of 2002, I moved back home to Florida to work on a new business venture with my brother for almost 2 years. In August, I found my lump through a self-exam, but originally did nothing, as I was 38 and never dreamed it was cancer. I was wrong.
Rachel: If you were uninsured, how were you able to have a mastectomy but not reconstruction?
Alisa: The county I lived in had a “social services” program that paid for my mastectomy and the 8 rounds of chemo necessary to save my life. But it did not cover reconstruction. Legally, if your insurance covers your mastectomy it has to cover your reconstruction. But I did not have health insurance. I was single, disfigured and depressed – yet it was time to go back to work. Back to the feathers I went! I had previously danced as a Vegas showgirl, and my friend new of an opening in a show – which meant a group insurance plan and a hope for surgery to return my missing body part.
Alisa: Yep! I billed myself as the “Lop-sided Showgirl” and used my story to gain media attention. We had some big parties in Vegas to raise money and awareness for uninsured survivors. With the help of NAWBO, a woman’s organization in Las Vegas, I founded My Hope Chest and became a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2003.
Rachel: What’s new with My Hope Chest now?
Alisa: During October we host many events. We were honored by the NFL during PINK Monday Night Football (photo at end of article). Also, the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans has promised to help women on our wait list with surgery. We need more doctors and anesthesiologists and surgical centers around the country to do the same. It is shocking to me that in 2011, women are still living minus one or both breasts for YEARS despite the fact that breast cancer is the most heavily funded cause in our nation. Research, education and awareness of the disease are covered by many pink ribbon organizations – but My Hope Chest has a unique mission and a growing wait list.
Rachel: How can we all help My Hope Chest and breast cancer survivors?
Alisa: Any donation, large or small, will have a profound impact on our mission and on the life of a survivor. We are still a grassroots organization, and each dollar is stretched much further for small nonProfits. We also need bloggers to write about our mission so people can learn about us and understand that what we do is unique. Although some large pink ribbon companies send women to us for help, we do not getting funding from them. Please visit our website and LIKE us on Facebookso you can stay abreast of our news and events. Or you can host an event right in your town, a FUN-raiser with all of your friends! We have some proven programs at comedy clubs, bars and other locations that you can recreate in your town to raise money. Don’t forget, these women need our help all year round, not just in October. And we’d love a celebrity spokesperson to help spread the word! The right smiling face behind our cause could take us from grassroots to international overnight!
Rachel: You’ve recreated your life, your goals, your body. You are truly inspiring Alisa! Thanks so much for taking your time to explain your cause to our readers and for being so open with us.
Alisa: We call all of our volunteers “Angels”, so today you have grown some beautiful wings. Thanks Rachel!
If you would like to help My Hope Chest or blog about My Hope Chest, please contact them here.