A 43 year old woman who had a double mastectomy as a result of finding she had the BRCA1 gene has been helped by a Somerset based specialist bra fitting service, Orchid Lingerie, which has made her “feel like a woman” again.
Val Trice who lives in Sherborne, Dorset carries the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which put her at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Val had already lost two members of her immediate family to cancer when she decided to go and be tested to see if she had the “cancer gene”.
A single mum with a 10 year old daughter, Val was determined to do everything she could to eliminate the risk of the disease and following a call from a specialist to say she had a 70% chance of getting breast cancer, she made the decision to have a double mastectomy operation in June last year.
Val said that would have always chosen the complete removal of her breasts over any partial surgery or course of chemotherapy, to ensure that she could be around for her 10-year-old daughter Emily.
She believes that more support should be available for women who elect to have preventative surgery rather than receive treatment after being diagnosed with cancer.
“It wasn’t an easy option but it was a practical one – I don’t think I could have coped with chemo- or radiotherapy if I had opted for it.
“The way I see it, having this operation saves the NHS loads of money that may have been spent on caring for me if I got cancer. But some of the money should have gone to my post operation therapy, yet ironically as I didn’t have cancer, none of that support was available.
“I don’t like my implants – they don’t feel right. The surgeons did a great job, but I have a big scar across my chest and I feel that no one was interested once the operation was carried out.”
Although Val received a support bra from the hospital, it made her feel uncomfortable and it seemed as if there was no one to turn to when it came to choosing the right underwear following the treatment she had gone through.
Thanks to an article in the local paper Sherrie-Jane, owner of Orchid Lingerie, heard about Val’s predicament and invited her to her specialist bra fitting chalet to meet a consultant from Anita UK, a lingerie company that Sherrie-Jane works with and who offer a specialist range of mastectomy bras and breast prostheses.
Jemma Barnes, general manager at Anita UK, explains, “For women who have had partial or full mastectomies as a result of breast cancer, coping with the changes to their bodies and how these make them feel takes time, and a bra can be an important part of this process.
“Finding a bra that fits well and is comfortable against tender scar tissue can be an important aid to well-being and helping women to regain their femininity. While it’s far from the case that the only bras available are unsightly, medical garments, there are more important considerations than simply appearance when selecting a bra after a mastectomy.”
Expert fitter Sherrie-Jane can assess the right bra size just by looking at someone. She says, “I have many years of experience in the industry and have seen bodies of all shapes and sizes. Most women are wearing the wrong sized bra and Val was no exception.
“For women who have had surgery they need to look for soft fabrics; deeper than average underarm bands for comfort over scar tissue; deeper centres for separation of the breast/breast form; a higher décolleté for coverage and containment of the breast form and security when moving around; a defined under band to anchor the bra and ensure comfort without too much pressure; and broad or padded straps for comfort and prevention of lymph oedema.”
Leaving Orchid Lingerie with her new bra, Val said, “Before surgery I used to love buying matching undies, but once I had the double mastectomy I didn’t feel like bothering as the support bra was ugly and not very comfortable, and I didn’t know what to do. The one to one care and attention I received from Sherrie-Jane today was marvellous and I want more women in the West Country to know that there are beautiful products and personal fitting services that can help them regain their femininity and feel like themselves again.”
i) Val Trice and owner of Orchid Lingerie, Sherrie-jane Jackson
ii) The Corsetry Chalet offers privacy and personal service to women who want a professional and caring bra fitting service