I received an email from Ms. Hollister Hovey of the PR firm that sent out that crass and insensitive letter. She asked for my phone number so she could apologize in person and we did managed to speak yesterday. I expressed my disbelief that a PR Firm devoted to Healthcare could miss the mark by so much, and I shared how we cancer patients feel about these campaigns. She agreed that it was insensitive but said that it was intended for early stage women, or women who were doing prophy mastectomies. I explained that these women also fall under the cancer umbrella and they don't want what they experienced sexualized or trivialized any more than we with metastatic disease do. I said that if they wanted to discuss how one might appear after a mastectomy using a special expander, perhaps focusing on something other than sexuality was wise - we are a lot more interested in looking at ourselves and not thinking "cancer" than looking at ourselves and saying "I am gonna get some tonight." There was my contribution to the world of marketing!
She acknowledged that they had gone very off-track, and I think we had a productive conversation. She ended by saying she would like to donate money to the breast cancer charity of my choice (I said StandUp2Cancer and Metavivor) and I offered to be an ear in case they ever wanted to get a cancer patient's perspective.
She followed up with a letter:
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me earlier.
First, we want to apologize again for the inappropriate approach and language used in the now-cancelled BRA Day campaign about which we emailed you and a handful of other people. The campaign and note absolutely minimized the seriousness of the issues at hand and lacked the respect you and all women fighting this disease deserve. It detracted from the very honorable core goal of the campaign: to ensure that women who are facing a terrifying diagnosis understand all their options.
We are dedicated to helping you and other patients change the dialogue around breast cancer so that all patients are treated with the dignity they deserve at all times. We fully agree that, as a society, we need to turn the focus to the patient and the cancer itself, away from the organ in which that cancer developed.
To that end, we will make a donation in your name to Stand-Up to Cancer and METAvivor, charities we know you support, as well as the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. We would also like to discuss positive ways we could possibly work together to support education that allows women to be fully aware of their options when facing such a terrifying diagnosis and the complex web of choices they will have to make about their health and bodies.
We also absolutely agree that more attention needs to go to innovation and clinical research that could lead to new therapies and technologies that have the potential to help women live longer and make cancer a significantly smaller part of their lives.
We sincerely hope that the mistakes made with this effort can lead to a positive dialogue about how women living with and fighting breast cancer deserve to be treated.
Hollister Hovey. Lazar Partners Ltd.
So I congratulate Lazar Partners for withdrawing the campaign and listening to our voices. (Although where this idea that women don't know their reconstruction choices came about is beyond me. In my experience, everybody knows what is available.)
Many of us received the below letter from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:
Dear Ms. Silberman
Thank you for calling to our attention the highly inappropriate campaign which improperly references the Breast Reconstruction Awareness campaign. We have taken action to demand that this social media campaign be halted immediately and have disassociated our Society from this campaign.
The Breast Reconstruction Awareness Campaign was created to educate and empower the high percentage of women and men who are unaware of their reconstructive options and rights following mastectomy. It was initiated to support those who have fought legislative battles for reconstructive options for many years. The campaign also raises funds to provide medical care for breast cancer patients as well as for scientific research and public awareness. There is no commercial aspect to this campaign.
As physicians, our members will not accept the trivialization of breast cancer in any manner. Our members provide post-mastectomy care as an integral part of the breast cancer patient's medical team and only wish to provide the best care possible once the patient has been fully informed of all treatment options.
Thank you, again, for informing us of this campaign and feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss further. Please accept our deepest apologies for the insensitive language to which you were subjected.
Robert X. Murphy, Jr., MD
Michael D. Costelloe
Executive Vice President