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October Brings Opportunity to Highlight the Impact Tissue Donors have on Breast Cancer Survivors

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We Are Sharing Hope SC (SHSC), the state’s nonprofit organ and tissue recovery service, is going pink this October to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month and celebrate the life-changing impact that organ and tissue donors have on breast cancer survivors. South Carolina’s donor heroes are impacting breast cancer survivors and helping beat cancer in three powerful ways:

  • A single tissue donor can make breast reconstruction possible for up to 5 survivors.
  • One organ donor can save eight lives.
  • Organ and tissue donors support groundbreaking cancer research.

A mastectomy, or breast removal surgery, remains one of the most common treatments for women with breast cancer. For many women, breast reconstruction is an important milestone to feeling whole. Donated skin grafts from tissue donors are a vital part of thousands of reconstructive surgeries that would otherwise not be possible.

In 2020, more than 59,000 breast reconstructive surgeries—43% of the total reconstructions in the US—were made possible by tissue donors.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy can take a heavy toll on patients and intensify pre-existing conditions like kidney and liver disease. Many cancer survivors have become recipients of an organ transplant.

Amy Cheff of Clemson, South Carolina found herself in need of a life-saving kidney transplant. Born with diabetes, Cheff’s fear of kidney failure was realized after a year-long battle with breast cancer followed by aggressive chemotherapy that depleted what was left of her kidney function.

“Kidney failure was always my worst fear and became my living nightmare,” Cheff said. “Dialysis was like reliving death four times a week.”

Totally reliant on a restrictive dialysis program, Cheff’s condition continued to decline until she received a life-saving transplant in early 2021. “When my donor said, ‘yes,’ and gave me that gift, it’s like she woke me up from that nightmare to live my life again,” Cheff said.

Cheff celebrated her new season in life and her defiant hope as a breast cancer survivor and kidney recipient by throwing away her dialysis equipment as soon as she returned home from the transplant hospital. Since the transplant, Cheff has regained her strength and is able to do the things she loves again, including traveling and exploring the state with her husband.

Organs and tissues that are not suitable for transplant can still make a life-saving impact. The organs and tissues donated by donor heroes help researchers make life-changing discoveries, including breakthroughs in cancer treatments and prevention. The tissues recovered by SHSC in 2021 have the potential to facilitate the research of thousands of scientists, including researchers studying cancer, Alzheimer’s, clinical depression, dementia and PTSD.

One organ, eye and tissue donor can save as many as eight lives, give two people back their sight and help heal more than 125 additional lives. In 2020, SC organ donors saved 514 lives, and SC cornea donors gave more than 600 people back their sight. SC tissue donors saved and helped heal more than 30,000 lives, including breast cancer survivors, burn victims, injured athletes and wounded soldiers.

South Carolina residents can learn more about donations at SharingHopeSC.org and register their decision to donate online at www.DonateLifeSC.org, on the iOS Health app or by saying “yes” at any DMV office in South Carolina.

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