Although it did not have the name, logo, structure or all the faces it has now, the seed of the Foundation was planted in fertile ground on a sunny February day in 2010, on the shore of Lake Geneva , Switzerland.
Annette is a blonde, American filmmaker who lives in London, a woman full of energy and of life, with a wonderful sense of humor and a contagious laugh. She is also a breast cancer patient, one of the many patients with a difficult story of recurrence. That day she was there for her 1 month post-operative visit after her last operation, and she was already feeling well and beautiful again. She started talking about her story, about how difficult it had been to get the adequate information to make critical decisions, and that she felt lucky that she had finally been able to thanks to a combination of determination, research, the right contacts. She had to fight for the right decision, which fortunately, she had the resources to do. The doubt of undergoing the right treatment is a terrible companion and she felt lucky because she had been able to experience the peace of having taken the right decision for herself about her treatments. She wanted to help other women have easier, quicker access to information. Only one month after surgery she felt already ready to give.
Phillip is a reconstructive surgeon who has dedicated his life to breast surgery. He is renowned for his dedication to research, for his scientific publications, for the many fellow-plastic surgeons from all over the world he has trained, for his presence at international conferences and for his natural skill to transmit his knowledge. For those who work with him, his most remarkable qualities are the warm humanity he uses with his patients, and the total inability to say no to somebody who presents him with a new and interesting project, even if he does not have the time.
In 2006, to increase awareness and knowledge of available options for post-mastectomy reconstruction, he wrote a book in Dutch that explained aesthetic and reconstructive breast surgery in language that was accessible to the general public (“Mijn Borst”).
The day Annette told Phillip she wanted to help other women get information in an easier way and with a positive attitude, Phillip showed her the presentation about the book project, told her about the expenses needed to cover for the shootings, to prepare and print the book, to distribute it. Annette immediately offered to help, but we all already knew that the synergy between these two persons was about to create something more ambitious than a book.
Laurent and Rossella are two reconstructive surgeons in love with breast surgery. They were working with Phillip that day, trying to steal all the tricks from the master and friend. They felt lucky to be in the right place, at the right moment to see Beautiful ABC coming to life and immediately engaged with the challenge. The development was time and energy consuming for everybody and their constant efforts in pushing the project forward has been fundamental.
They were there when, during a brainstorming in Phillip’s car, the name came out, when the logo was designed, when other volunteers started to join the group: volunteers like Johan and Christine were recruited from family and friends of patients and other volunteers, like Colin, were colleagues.
The foundation was officially founded by Annette and Phillip on March 30, 2011 in Gent, Belgium to increase awareness and raise funds for research and practice in the area of reconstructive breast surgery.
The first act of the Foundation was to develop a website to continue the educational outreach: the intention was to create a site that was objective, professional, clear, and easy to read and navigate. Phillip, Colin, Laurent and Rossella worked tirelessly together to prepare the medical contents of this website. Presented originally in Dutch and English, translations of the site will be developed in the future in French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
The second act of the Foundation was to begin fund raising for medical research and practice in the area of reconstructive breast surgery. Information about the various projects and events we developed in support of the Foundation can be found on our website.
In the meantime, more patients joined the group, like Sylvia and Virginie. Every person added a different point of view: Sylvia is a mezzo soprano singer and hosts a radio program, Virginie is a successful business woman. All of us involved our family and friends to work for the projects and the number of volunteers and supporters is growing every day.
Being an heterogeneous group with a common goals has certainly become our strength and now the foundation has its own identity card, a defined structure, rules, a scientific board, international chapters, annual meetings and everything it takes to be a strong organization to the benefit of fellow patients.