St. Petersburg, Florida -- For most breast cancer patients, reconstruction is the final step of their treatment. But for the estimated 20 percent of women who have mastectomies who are uninsured, they may not be able to afford reconstructive surgery.
A Bay area woman wants to make sure no woman has to live without her breasts.
Alisa Savoretti's career took her all over the world. "I was in the original Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas. I traveled all over Europe. I worked in the Caribbean. I worked in Japan."
And when Alisa was diagnosed with breast cancer, that didn't stop her from returning to spotlight as a Vegas showgirl in 2003.
"I was back on stage but this time it was different, because I was dancing minus one breast. I made a living with my body, and I was unable to get this last step of treatment," Alisa said.
She lived a year and a half waiting for breast reconstruction while her health benefits at her new job took effect. Now, through My Hope Chest, Alisa is helping other women who can't afford theirs. In these tough economic times, the non profit has more women waiting than they can help.
"I make the joke, 'What's the definition of insanity? It's running a grassroots non-profit in a recession,'" Alisa said.
Victoria Crowe was uninsured when she had a mastectomy five years ago, but the wait for a reconstruction for the two-time breast cancer survivor is almost over. She'll undergo microvascular surgery in February, taking fat from her body instead of an implant.
"I am thrilled beyond words. I could do the happy dance all day long, because I just feel like I'm in limbo now, and when it happens, I feel like I'll be able to live again like a normal person whatever normal is," Victoria said. "Every day, it's a constant reminder, and I just feel like I'll be me again. I'm happy, I'm a happy person, but there's always been something missing which is my breast, and I can't wait to be me again."
While she volunteers for the American Cancer Society in Brooksville, Victoria's work is coming full circle. "You're proof that you can live through it. And so you can give them hope and something to look forward to," Victoria said.
Alisa Savoretti hopes to help more women with fundraising efforts and with the support of local surgeons. If you would like to learn more about My Hope Chest and their fundraising efforts including Divas of Daytime, click here to visit their website.
Libby Hendren, 10 News