SUPPORT GROUP: Bras For Cancer Survivors
“Breast cancer is a wily beast,” says breast cancer survivor Cary Kim. “It lurks, it hides out, it plays games with your head, it eludes tests. You have to carpet-bomb it.” Kim is the co-founder of www.handful.com, a lingerie brand created by four women. The Handful brand is high-performance, functional, practical and gorgeous, just like the women who wear these bras, capris, leggings, tees, hoodies and biker shorts made of quick-drying, breathable, moisture-wicking recycled polyester in playful prints and cute solids. These bras are designed for all women, including but not limited to women who have breast surgery. The design features “pad and stash” pockets which all the wearer to create breast symmetry after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Handful offers a special program called BFF (“Breast Friends Forever”) which provides a 30% lifetime discount to anyone affected by breast cancer, including “previvors” who choose breast removal prior to a cancer diagnosis.
Jennifer Ferguson was a fitness and yoga instructor in Portland, WA who developed the first prototypes for her customizable bras in 2006 because nothing on the market at the time gave the “girls” adequate support during a workout. Cary Kim attended her class, “hiding in the back of the room, totally flat” as she describes it after a double mastectomy.
After experiencing a clogged duct while breastfeeding her first child, then a miscarriage, Cary found a lump. She was in her early 20s. “I never felt pain,” she says. Initially, she believed that her Korean ancestry was sufficient protection against breast cancer, since the disease incidence among Asian women is historically low. However, “I felt this thing, smooth, round, moveable. It went from the size of an m+m to a Junior Mint. When I went in, turns out it was Stage 3.” On the advice of her oncologist and medical team, Kim had her uterus, both ovaries and both breasts removed. “Sadly,” she says, “Estrogen is the enemy when we’re talking about breast cancer.”
She’s been symptom-free for 17 years, but adds a cautionary note. At age 72, her mother was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy. The fact that both she and her mother are breast cancer survivors “…triples the risk for my daughters,” she says. She shares that getting insurance to cover the needed MRIs and ultrasound testing is difficult with most health care providers. Today, she is vigilant about “…the only things I can control. I’ve been able to reduce my scar tissue, and now I have these two, perfect scars like mouths smiling up at me. And I use food and exercise to reduce circulating estrogen.”
We are grateful to the team at Handful.com for providing a generous gift certificate for Handful merchandise.
Wearing a properly fitted bra is good for your breasts and body for a number of reasons. Heavy breasts can cause back pain, and affect your posture. There is even some evidence that not wearing a bra may be hazardous to your health! If your exposed nipples rub against your clothing, in time your body may interpret this as a signal to begin lactation. This signal triggers estrogen production. It’s unlikely that going braless will trigger lactation if you’re past menopause, and it’s also unlikely that the spurts of estrogen will increase breast cancer risk, but it’s hypothetically possible.
But still. A well-fitting bra is NOT painful or cumbersome. Many designs these days do not include the underwires which some women find uncomfortable, and which are not recommended for up to one year after breast surgery. After surgery, you’ll want a bra that offers light to medium compression while you heal. When a bra fits right, you honestly won’t know it’s there, but your breasts and silhouette will look firm and graceful.
We HEART Handful.com, but here are some other bra brands that look good and address the specific needs of women who have had breast surgery, and also some places to check out for prosthetics:
Post-surgery bras, as listed by Medical News Today:
- Best for post-breast reduction procedures: Marena FlexFit Drain Bulb Management Bra
- Best for everyday wear: Brabic Post-Surgical Sports Support Bra
- Best for medium-to-high compression: Prairie Wear HuggerPRIMA
- Best for small budgets: Burvogue Post-Surgery Front Closure Sports Bra
- Best for easy removal: Playtex 18 Hour Easy On, Easy Off Post-Surgery Bra
- Best for a soft fabric: Trulife 327 Charlotte
- Best for post-mastectomy: Oysho Lola Multiway Bra
- Best for sensitive skin: AnaOno Molly Plunge Bra
- Best for full coverage: ThirdLove Monica Post-Surgery Full Coverage Bra
- Best for early stage recovery: Heart & Core Larissa Post-Surgical Bra
- Best for breast augmentation: Macom Signature Bra
- Best zip-front bra: Marena FlexFit Ultra Low Coverage Zip-Front Bra
…and here are a few more!
Everviolet.com, recovery lingerie designed by a breast cancer thriver. Check out this inspiring story from Miss Karen Rice, a Black woman who battled cancer three times and won, from their blog: https://everviolet.com/blogs/journal/in-her-words-karen-rice
Everviolet Founder KEIRA KOTLER Pictured Right.
Health Products for You represents several brands of post-surgery bras including Amoena, American Breast Care, Anita, Almost U, Trulife, Classique and Wear Ease. This company also offers foam and silicone breast forms and many other health-related products.
Nearly Me offers siicone breast forms and shells in a variety of shapes.
Jodee.com also carries mastectomy swimwear and bra-extenders. BTW, swimming is often recommended to women who have had breast surgery, including cosmetic procedures, by their surgeons as a way to restore range-of-motion and reducing tension in the neck and back muscles and shoulder joints. Swimming may also reduce the swelling (lymphedema) which often follows surgery. Of course, check with your doctor before hitting the water!
Damozelle.com carries a number of brands and a variety of bras and breast forms for every phase of recovery.
Wearpepper.com for AA, A & B cups
Mastectomyshop.com also carries fly wigs, hats with realistic hair attachments, swimwear, shampoo, skincare, turbans and headwraps
WANAYOU at amazon.com also carries butt-lifting shorts and compression shirts
Marena.com for medical-grade compression garments, including sleeves and vests
Mastheadpink.com offers Velcro front-closure and shoulder releases, and convenient side closure, loops and rings to hold JP drain bulbs and tubing.
Athleta.gap.com offers The Empower Bra with lightweight prosthetic inserts
Oysho offers the Lola bra in various configurations. The basic Lola, in black, simply looks like sleek, sexy, elegant lingerie, when in fact it’s available with right or left cup prosthetic.
True & Co offers a full range of Plus sizes
SheFit at amazon.com features bras with a hook-and-eye and zipper front, Velcro straps, and a sliding buckle in back with Velcro tab for easy fitting.