Cancer Fashionista Talks “Restored” with Drs. Ron Israeli and Jonathan Bank

Drs. Israeli and Bank with Cancer Fashionista, Melissa Berry at Restored exhibit in NYC

Drs. Ron Israeli and Jonathan Bank joined Cancer Fashionista Melissa Berry on her podcast, Dear Cancer, I’m Beautiful, to talk about their collaborative artistic endeavor, “Restored.” The project captures the reconstruction experiences of twelve women through lifecasts, photography, and written stories. 

“For somebody facing mastectomy and reconstruction, the purpose is to provide a sense of hope and inspiration,” Dr.Israeli said.

The project culminated in a live exhibit and a book, which benefits the AiRS Foundation. The book is available for purchase here. Read on for a few highlights from the conversation or listen to the whole podcast episode here

Casting for the project centered around presenting a range of surgical approaches.

“We wanted to show an array of women, we didn’t want to show necessarily or paint some kind of rosy picture,” Dr. Bank said.

Dr. Bank said that the relationships and trust that they had built with patients also factored into who was asked to participate. His experience with a prior artistic endeavor, “Reconstructed,” informed some of the casting decisions. Beyond that, he and Dr. Israeli said that it was a matter of presenting the widest variety of types of reconstruction.

“You get a sense as to who would be interested in something like this. And we did want to check all the boxes. In other words, we wanted to make sure we had a direct-to-implant, a tissue expander reconstruction, a DIEP flap, we wanted to vary—a TUG flap—to make sure that we had representation of a variety of reconstructions,” Dr. Israeli said.

Emergence from the lifecast offered participants a physical representation of their emotional transformations. 

“Being cast and sort of released from that cast, I think that there’s a moment there that’s I’m free, I can breathe, but I’m just paraphrasing a segment from Ron’s eight minute video turned restored on his original project with the six where he’s releasing the silicone mold,” Dr. Bank said.

Dr. Israeli expanded on his thought: “That process of creating the lifecast is that singular point of emergence. As you’re taking that silicone off and you’re creating that sculpture, it’s only one point in their recovery. We know that the process of healing and recovery, that journey goes on, but that one point in the process is captured by that lifecast.”

This project is part of a larger, essential, ongoing conversation around breast cancer and reconstruction.

The doctors agreed that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is extremely important. Breast cancer survival rates have improved steadily since its inception in 1985. According to Drs. Israeli and Bank, that change is not a coincidence. However, they said they feel that it’s important to keep engaging with the subject outside of October. Projects like this aim to keep breast cancer and reconstruction on people’s minds.

“I think it’s definitely important to continue a conversation throughout the year. As we all know, breast cancer doesn’t end on October 31st,” Dr. Bank said.


Dr. Light, Mary and Dr. Israeli pose for camera

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