After doctors diagnosed Jenna with chronic recurrent subareolar abscesses, a rare and incurable disease that causes inflammation in the nipples, which led to almost a year of painful treatments to drain the swelling, Jenna decided she wanted to remove them once and for all.
“I was like, ‘can you just take my nipples because I’m not getting anywhere’,” she says.
Her breast surgeon assured Jenna that they would be able to reconstruct her nipples after their removal, so Jenna went ahead with the surgery that eliminated her battle with subareolar abscesses. In 2015, on her thirtieth birthday, she had her nipples removed.
Three months later, while Jenna was looking at various plastic surgeons to reconstruct her nipples, she found out that under her health insurance plan, reconstruction of the nipples was considered a cosmetic procedure, and therefore they would not cover it. Her nipples were completely flat and deformed with a scar, yet her health insurance would not cover the cost of reconstruction.
Desperate, Jenna wrote a letter to her insurance company, stating the cause of the nipple removal and describing the serious form of depression she felt because of her deformed nipples. How could reconstruction be considered cosmetic, she asked them? She didn’t ask to have her nipples inflamed! She wouldn’t even be pursuing nipple reconstruction if it weren’t for the subareolar abscesses!
At that point, Jenna found herself wishing she had breast cancer because then at least the reconstruction would be covered.
“I dealt with so much pain during this whole process,” she says. “I had mammograms where they smashed my breasts while they were infected. It was just a nightmare.”
And now, this. She wouldn’t be able to pay for reconstruction.
“I felt like I was never going to be whole again.”
AiRS Helps Out
But Jenna didn’t give up. She reached out to numerous breast cancer foundations because she felt they might be able to help her cover reconstruction. Many of them said no because she didn’t have breast cancer. When Jenna reached out the AiRS Foundation, which she’d discovered while searching the Internet, they at first said no, too. But when AiRS founder Morgan Hare read Jenna’s file, she realized AiRS had to help.
Morgan called Jenna and told her she’d reviewed her story and wanted to help cover the cost of nipple reconstruction, even though the deformation wasn’t caused by breast cancer. Jenna had never been happier.
“The AiRS Foundation helped because the subareolar abscesses was still a woman’s issue, a breast issue,” says Jenna.
Not only was Jenna able to cover her nipple reconstruction through a grant from the AiRS Foundation, she also got a 3-D nipple tattoo on her breast to give it the look of a real nipple.
“Since reconstruction, I definitely have a peace of mind. I’m blessed that I’m able to look quote-on-quote ‘normal’ again, and feel normal, and feel like a woman,” she says.
If you’re a woman in need of reconstruction, don’t hesitate to apply for a grant from AiRS!
Breast or nipple reconstruction in cases like Jenna’s is often a vital step toward feeling whole again. But many women cannot afford the procedure, which can be costly. That’s why we at the AiRS Foundation offer grants for women to receive reconstruction. Applying for one of our grants for breast reconstruction is easy!
We’ve tried our best to make the application as straightforward as possible, and we have a fast return rate so you’ll know the status of your application quickly. Here’s where you can learn more about how to apply. If you are a woman in need of reconstruction, we hope to hear from you. It’s our mission to help you feel whole again!