Photography credit: Erez Sabag
We know that sometimes, it may feel that our doctors don’t always get it. Especially how we may feel after leaving their office. This is not the case with Dr. Jonathan Bank, a plastic surgeon who’s on a mission to help those of us with mastectomies embrace our scars and newly reconstructed breasts (aka (f)oobs) with pride & confidence.
We love his project so much, we just had to share it with you!
Combining his love for art & photography, with his passion for reconstruction, he, along with Creative Director, David Warren and Beauty Photographer, Erez Sabag of FORM conceived RECONSTRUCTED: a photography series showcasing his patients who have undergone breast reconstruction surgery. The book is filled with their raw and emotional stories, and how the project has helped them to view their new bodies as beautiful. Something we all aspire to do.
Dana Donofree, our fearless founder, sat down with Dr. Bank, to learn a bit more about him, the project, and what he hopes the future of reconstruction looks like. We share this with you in the hopes of uplifting and inspiring you and your new reclaimed body!
When I decided to focus on breast reconstruction, I felt that it was critical that I have a toolbox that would enable me to deal with any situation I was faced. Having trained in tertiary medical centers that dealt with complications of all types of reconstructions, I decided to further my training in microsurgery, primarily with breast free flap types of reconstruction. A significant percentage of my practice is implant-based reconstructions, since I have the ability to provide either option and therefore able to tailor the solution to each particular patient, according to their specific situation and desire.
RECONSTRUCTED was always hidden in the corner of my mind, a manifestation of my affinity for photography and the arts, combining it with my dedication to breast reconstruction. The actual impetus came from a patient and her husband who introduced me to the concept of kintsugi. This is an art form in which broken pottery is gilded with the cracks lined in gold, expressing the notion that something that has a history and a sustained damage can still be beautiful, or even more so, after the adversity it has endured.
I thought that the philosophy could translate naturally to the breast reconstruction world, but wasn’t sure exactly how. I took the idea to David and Erez at FORM, and they developed the creative imagery and storytelling that became the book and subsequent gallery exhibit.
"GOLD MAKES THE CRACKS BEAUTIFUL."
A patient that was going through a difficult emotional time but her faith and optimism never wavered. I also felt that it was an important year to launch the project with everything that was going on around the world in terms of body image, the “Instagram age”, and female empowerment. In a way this was my way of addressing the tension between perceived perfection, and the emotional and physical struggle with the inevitability of never achieving that so-called “perfection”–and coming to terms with that reality. In a more tangible context, this strives to address the fear some people have of undergoing screening tests, the fear of being diagnosed, and the fear of coping (again – emotionally and physically).
"I WAS VERY ASHAMED OF MY SCARS. NOW, I TAKE IT AS A BATTLE SCAR."
It was a tremendously poignant journey with these 16 courageous women. Being with them through their decision to participate, their thoughts on what this means for them, not just in their cancer journey but also handling mental scars that were completely unrelated. I was humbled by their willingness to literally bare it all, in hope that they would save one woman that would perhaps be inspired to get screened and treated early, or just be able to come to terms with what she’s been through. I was speechless seeing how they each shined in their own way in front of the camera, surprised at times what each woman brought from herself into the moment, things that could never come out in a clinical way. One woman had us paint her hair with dripping gold, as her “heaviest” scar was losing her hair from chemo. Another had her husband with her at the photoshoot, and he confessed how transformative this experience was for their relationship that had suffered due to the physical (and subsequently emotional) challenges she faced.
Each woman walked into the photo studio full of nerves, and left the set feeling beautiful and empowered, it was an enormously powerful and transformative experience for each of them. This was only possible because of Erez’s unassuming demeanor, and absolute mastery of capturing touching images. Coupled with David’s thoughtful and phenomenal compilation and curation of the book, the website, and the gallery - what started with just an idea turned into a scope of work that was far stronger and beyond anything I could envision.
"THIS EXPERIENCE HAS HELPED ME TO EMBODY MYSELF MORE AND TO ACCEPT MYSELF, AND TO HAVE A BIT MORE CONFIDENCE WITHIN MY NEW BODY."
First and foremost I want to show that women are still beautiful and powerful after facing breast cancer. I wanted to show that despite the imperfections there is beauty in overcoming hardship. I wanted to reiterate that all women of all walks of life could be affected. I wanted to show spouses and loved ones how strong and inspirational these women can be. On another level, I wanted to educate the general population on the many options for reconstruction, all of which have pros and cons, but there is always hope for improving on whatever cards were dealt.
I want the breast cancer community to remember that there are many great options for reconstruction, reconstruction is far from mandatory, it’s very personal decision, every choice has its risks and benefits, but most risks can be managed and most problems can be addressed one way or the other. I encourage the community to never sugarcoat things and to find creative outlets to continue the discussion.
I think by finding compelling and novel methods of talking about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful, we further the discussion and expand on who we touch and educate.
The more opportunities we have for different people to give their perspectives, we will help patients make their choice. I firmly believe that there’s no wrong choice, there is just the best choice for that specific person at that specific point in time.
Jonathan Bank, M.D. is a board-certified plastic surgeon with specialty training in microsurgery. His particular interests include autologous breast reconstruction, sensory restoration of the reconstructed breast, reversal of lymphedema, new applications for fat grafting, facial aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, and high-definition body contouring. Dr. Bank has authored more than thirty peer-reviewed articles, including award winning publications regarding novel techniques in fat grafting. He has written multiple book chapters in internationally regarded surgical publications. Dr. Bank serves on the review and editorial boards of a number of reconstructive and aesthetic plastic surgery journals. He has presented his research at regional, national, and international conferences in the fields of microsurgical reconstruction and aesthetic surgery.
Keep up with the team that made Project RECONSTRUCTED happen:
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Dana Donofree is joined by Dr. Brannon Claytor to answer your questions about the ASPS news that some surgeries are being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Claytor is the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Main Line Heath and owner of his private practice, Claytor/Noone Plastic Surgery.