In 2001, at the young age of 38, Alisa Savoretti, a Las Vegas Showgirl, found a lump in her breast. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Alisa was uninsured at the time and Medicaid would not pay for her treatment. Luckily, a social services program helped her pay for her mastectomy and chemotherapy, but did not help her with reconstructive surgery. Only five months after finishing chemotherapy, and anxious about having insurance and money to help pay her bills, Alisa decided to return to the stage as a professional dancer–with only one breast. As a Showgirl in Las Vegas, where body image is everything, self esteem can be hard to come by. However, Alisa knew that she had to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Alisa billed herself as the “Lop-sided Showgirl” and began sharing her experience and plans to create an organization. Local media picked up on her story and three years later she was finally able to have the reconstructive surgery. Her sense of humor showed when she named the girls Zsa Zsa and Ava. It was also during this time that she realized how big the gap in treatment for a mastectomy was for women who were insured and who were “uninsured.”
From this immense learning experience, My Hope Chest was born. With the help of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), My Hope Chest became a 501c3 in December of 2003 and is now the only “national” breast reconstruction organization that is working to help “uninsured” and under-insured women fully heal from a mastectomy.
Starting My Hope Chest was not easy for Alisa. She struggled to get her organization on its feet by working a series of jobs such as nanny, deli clerk and gardener, all while working the phone lines to organize fundraisers and set up pro bono operations. Her inner strength persevered and today, nine years later, My Hope Chest has changed the lives of nine breast cancer survivors, with five more surgeries scheduled for the rest of this year. The mission of My Hope Chest is to expedite the healing process for women who have had a mastectomy by providing reconstructive surgery as quickly as possible to help restore self esteem and dignity.