Local BRAVE Day effort backs breast reconstruction rights

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



If you go

What: BRAVE Day features a raffle, gift bags, BRAVE Day bracelets, vendor displays, photo booth, Wall of the Brave bra design table, food and pink lemonade. Physical therapist will give exercise demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 21.

Where: PeaceHealth Medical Group Plastic Surgery office, 505 N.E. 87th Ave., Suite 250, in Vancouver.

Information: Brave Day.

Vancouver physicians, breast cancer patients and residents will celebrate breast reconstruction rights on the first local day designated to the cause.

The Vancouver City Council proclaimed March 21 as the first BRAVE Day, which stands for Breast Reconstruction Advocacy Victory Event.

The nonprofit Pink Lemonade Project and Dr. Allen Gabriel, chief of plastic surgery for PeaceHealth Medical Group, proposed BRAVE Day as a way to raise awareness about breast reconstruction rights. Gabriel and his wife founded Pink Lemonade to provide breast cancer patients retreats, education programs and support opportunities.

The federal Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires group health insurance plans that cover mastectomies to also cover breast reconstruction surgeries. However, research shows only 40 percent of women who receive a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis go on to have breast reconstruction surgery, according to the Pink Lemonade Project.

The BRAVE Day proclamation is just the latest of Gabriel’s efforts to draw attention to the cause.

Last year, Gabriel worked with state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, to draft legislation that would have required surgeons to notify breast cancer patients of their rights. The bill passed the Health Care and Wellness Committee but Moeller backed off before it made it much further due to concerns raised by physicians and cancer advocacy groups.

As a result of the failed legislation, Gabriel and the Pink Lemonade Project launched a new website, MyReconstructionRights, offering women information about their rights to reconstructive surgery following mastectomies.

“Our goal is to bring attention to the advocacy efforts that are needed to counteract the lack of meaningful legislation targeting breast reconstruction rights,” Gabriel said.

BRAVE Day will be celebrated with events throughout the day at the PeaceHealth Medical Group Plastic Surgery office in Vancouver. Those who attend will also have the chance to order pink recycle carts from Waste Connections.

Local businesses and groups are also supporting BRAVE Day by encouraging their employees and customers to wear pink on March 21.

For more information about BRAVE Day, visit Brave Day.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.