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St. Petersburg, FL -- Twenty percent of breast cancer patients who undergo mastectomies are uninsured. For uninsured breast cancer survivors, reconstructive surgery can cost $25,000 to $50,000 based on the type of surgery. Surgeries that are performed at the medicaid rate can cost about $10,000 for a typical tissue expander for those who did not have radiation.
For the women who have fought breast cancer and are still missing their breasts, the battle wages on to find resources for reconstruction. A Bay area charity it its mission to make sure those women get the help they desire to make themselves complete.
"I definitely feel incomplete. I feel uncomfortable when I'm going out in public, like people can tell. Even if I'm wearing a prosthetic or a breast form," Kari Marko said.
Nearly a year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her right breast and underwent a mastectomy, Kari is getting the reconstruction she's longed for.
"I definitely think it will boost my self confidence. I'll be able to wear a bathing suit again," Kari said.
Kari didn't have health insurance and couldn't afford surgery, so she turned to the internet where she found My Hope Chest, a national charity based here in the Bay area that helps women get reconstruction.
"I had my fiancée take down all the mirrors in the house so I didn't have to see it when I got out of the shower or see it when I was getting dressed. It took quite some time before I even felt comfortable looking at myself. It definitely puts you in a little bit of a depression. And I felt very hopeless like that was it. I was just going to be deformed for the rest of my life and so finding my hope chest was a blessing," Kari said.
The surgery isn't easy to pull together getting a surgeon, anesthesiologist, and hospital on board to donate time, and companies donated Kari's implant and a tissue graft to make the breast.
Dr. Antonio Gayoso says reconstruction is not only medically necessary, it's also part of the psychological healing process
"It's a big part of the psychological healing process for patients," Dr. Gayoso said "If you don't have to think about the fact that your breast was removed every day forever in the bathroom mirror, getting dressed, that's a huge psychological benefit just to be normal. There's a huge amount to be said for that."
To learn more about My Hope Chest, here's a link to their website.
For previous coverage of My Hope Chest, click here.
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Libby Hendren, 10 News