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.”

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