During medical school Elizabeth Chabner Thompson decided to dedicate her life to caring for women as a radiation oncologist. Her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were cancer survivors and she wanted to continue to encourage women to take charge of their health. Today as a doctor, a mother of four and an athlete, she believes that being kind to oneself is about setting positive patterns.
“Be aware of your surroundings, the ingredients in your food, eat a balanced diet, manage stress. Get into healthy habits to have control over your health and the ability to heal yourself.”
In 2006, after years of biopsies and genetic counseling, Elizabeth underwent a voluntary procedure, a preventative double mastectomy and direct-to-implant breast reconstruction. It was a decision she chose for her own body and with her own children in mind. She wanted to rid herself of the possibility for breast cancer. After recovering from the surgery, she recognized that she could use her own recovery to inform other women’s experiences with breast cancer treatment in a positive and informed way.
She conceived of the concept behind her BFFL Bag, a tote bag with surgical accessories and items that facilitate comfort in recovery. Often times women are gifted flowers and cards by loved ones in the hospital but what they need is care bags and instructions on how to care for the body post-surgery.
Her bags are based on the action of giving back to women and to giving them a sense of dignity in healing. She says,” Being a patient doesn’t take away from a person’s ability to make calculated decisions.” She wants women to feel confident and good about themselves at every turn.
An avid marathon runner, golfer, and tennis player, Elizabeth has been an athlete all of her life. After her own surgery, Elizabeth asked her doctor how soon she could return to running again. She urges women to tell their physicians what they need to aide in their recovery, “Tell them you need to get back to rock climbing, the plank position in yoga or swimming. There is so much we CAN do.” Amazingly enough she was back to running just 12 days after her surgery. “For me running is about therapy. To have a clear mind, to think through a problem.”
Breast cancer research has come far in the last 10 years and Elizabeth hopes that her bag and her continued work dedicated to women remove the element of shame associated with breast cancer treatments. She says, “It’s important to know your history, your own body.” Elizabeth’s story is a great inspiration to us. She continues to stay healthy by sharing in activities with her children!
Your words can make an impact. Share notes of encouragement to be delivered within the bags to breast cancer patients: email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.