Meet the breast surgeon whose eye for symmetry and fashion flair is helping women in more ways than one
We meet the breast surgeon whose eye for symmetry and love of fashion are helping women in more ways than one
beautiful, but when he asked the patient, ‘What do you think?’ she said, ‘Well, I didn’t really like my breasts to start with because they were too droopy.’”
Getting the best aesthetic outcome while performing the cancer surgery doesn’t require a lot more time or money, says Dr Gale. For instance, during a bilateral, nipple-sparing mastectomy case [where the nipple and areola are kept intact along with the breast skin] for a patient who needed it on one side and who had a family history [of breast cancer], Dr Gale got her A-cup to a full B with one operation. The patient was very pleased because she got the breasts she had always wanted (they had atrophied a little after breastfeeding). Working this element into the surgical plan doesn’t require adding that much more in terms of recovery or spending on the healthcare dollar, says Dr Gale, who adds that you get a very happy patient and deal with the oncology at the same time.
One summer during her training, Dr Gale had the urge to do something creative. “It was just so much science and academia that one Christmas – I think it was in my second year of medical school – I started sewing again. I would have long summers in the sewing room at my parents’ place in Whanganui.
“I became known for being able to sew at med school and would make costumes for friends. I made Teletubby costumes for the school med play, a witch’s outfit and, when I was in Whangarei as a junior registrar, I put on a fundraising fashion show called Fashion in the Funky Ray. It was a huge event; I hired Parua Bay Tavern out towards Ocean Beach near Whangarei Heads, had a stage built and got sound and lighting. I cut out 80 outfits myself and then, with the help of two retired local ladies, sewed them.
“I would be up sewing every night; I hate to think what my colleagues thought of my disposition at that time! I was just so determined to put on this big show so I got some advertising in local newspapers, which TVNZ spotted, and they ran a story on it after the news. It was for skin cancer awareness and we raised quite a bit of money.”
The link between fashion and philanthropy didn’t end there. In 2016, Dr Gale organised a seminar that brought renowned oncoplastic and reconstructive surgeons to our shores to train 130 surgeons from Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Patients and their families were also invited to attend for a day to learn more about controversial topics and treatments. As the cherry on top, Dr Gale convinced Gucci to donate a pink handbag, which was auctioned off and won by a breast cancer survivor. While she hasn’t had much time to fundraise or sew lately, she knows fashion will always be part of who she is.
“One day I hope to get back into sewing – it’s food for the soul. I think I’d start small; I’m not going to be doing a massive fashion show. Fashion for me was never going to be a business because medicine and surgery are my passion, but being able to use that training and background has really helped me in surgical planning. In a way, it’s kind of fed my creative side and I haven’t needed to sew so much.”
However, Dr Gale does indulge her passion for fashion overseas and at home through online shopping.
“At the moment I love Dior, Louis Vuitton – although LV has become a lot more sports luxe so it’s not as translatable to work wear – Gucci and World. I really like what Alessandro Michele is doing at Gucci. Sometimes it’s a bit ‘out there’ for my work, but I like expressing myself and I don’t think you have to fit into what people are expecting of you.
“I like the prints and loud fabrics of Gucci. I like the structure of Balenciaga and I love the accessories!”
“One day I hope to get back into sewing – it’s food for the soul.”