In 2014, when Eckra Nkele was tested for the BRCA gene, which signifies a high risk of breast cancer, she knew she was likely to test positive. All her sisters, her mother, and her mother’s sisters had battled breast cancer. Nkele had already lost three sisters to cancer when she was tested, and would lose her fourth sister by the end of 2015.
When the doctor called Nkele with the news that she carried the BRCA gene, she was angry and frightened, not just for herself, but also for her daughters, whom she cared for as a single mom.
Nkele decided immediately to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. While the surgery itself went well, she became infected during the recovery. To make matters worse, she did not have the funds for breast reconstruction or a support group to help her through the emotional challenges of a double mastectomy.
“I was depressed and angry,” says Nkele. “I was in a very dark place.”
That’s when Nkele’s friend who knew about Nkele’s situation saw an informational segment about the AiRS Foundation on the local news. The friend immediately called Nkele and urged her to contact AiRS.
Nkele called the foundation immediately.
“Unlike most things you see on TV, AiRS called me back within hours,” says Nkele. “They started actually talking with me and helping me to move forward the very next day.”
Not only did AiRS help Nkele afford breast reconstruction, they also connected her with other women who’d experienced the pain of breast cancer and mastectomies, and understood the importance of reconstruction.
“Their main goal was for me to feel better and to know that they were going to do all that they could to help me become whole again,” says Nkele.
Last year, before reconstruction, Nkele was emotionally drained, she says. She was embarrassed to go out in public because her breasts were uneven. She was tired from the intense surgeries. She was worried about her daughters who had to see her struggle to stay healthy and joyful.
“It was very draining being a single parent,” says Nkele. “It was financially devastating. It had a big impact on my life. This time last year, hope was gone.”
After working with the AiRS Foundation, however, Nkele began to regain hope.
“I was like a flower,” she says. “I started to blossom with hope.”
Nkele is now only a short treatment away from completing the process of breast reconstruction. With her new breasts, she feels whole and confident again.
She now encourages other women in her situation, especially African American women, who are at a higher risk of breast cancer than other women, and single mothers, to contact the AiRS Foundation for assistance with breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.
“They supported me throughout the entire process, assuring me that my financial status would not stop their efforts,” says Nkele. “Thank you, AiRS, for being that light at the end of a dark tunnel.”
Help AiRS help women like Nkele
The AiRS Foundation relies on financial support from individuals like you to help women like Nkele receive breast reconstruction. EVERY donation, big or small, makes a TREMENDOUS impact on the lives of women across the country. Consider making a donation today!