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September 10, 2008 > Shop Sends Message of Hope and Healing to Breast Cancer Survivors

Shop Sends Message of Hope and Healing to Breast Cancer Survivors

Compassion and Understanding Give Shop its Heart and Soul

Located next to the Washington Women's Center inside Washington West, Bras for Body & Soul(r) is tough to miss.

"With the original artwork of Laurel Birch, bright colors, neat and clean space, quiet and meditative music as well as a warm cup of tea brewing, one is suddenly transformed... Bras for Body & Soul(r) is an oasis of hope and healing!" says HERS Breast Cancer Foundation Secretary Annette Fagundes of the shop's atmosphere.

A program of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, Bras for Body & Soul(r), a tenant of the Washington Women's Center, is a specialty bra shop for women who have had breast cancer, but also provides services for all women in the community.

Notably, the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation and Bras for Body & Soul(r) are able to provide services and products to under-served women in the community facing breast cancer. These services are mainly achieved through support from community members and products sold through the foundation and Bras for Body & Soul(r).

While the atmosphere of the shop may be warm and inviting, it is the women who have come together as advocates for breast health and better awareness that make the shop what it is.

From foundation board members to the women involved in the daily operations of Bras for Body & Soul(r), they bring compassion and understanding that is passed on to each woman who enters the shop.

"We call our work 'body and soul' because our intent is for each woman to experience the comfort she desires, as well as the respect she deserves regarding her breasts," explains Elaine Skloot, office administrator for the shop. "Bras for Body & Soul(r) provides products and extended service for all women including women who have had breast surgery.

"We provide as many as 200 bra sizes from AA thru N. Each woman has a special and unique need and our breast care specialists are trained to fit their needs properly. Each woman can feel comfortable, knowing that she will have a private, individualized fitting."

Products specifically designed for women who have survived breast cancer include a wide number of items, such as:
* Post-operative camisoles
* Standard and custom silicone breast forms for partial and full mastectomies
* Specialty bras designed to support silicone breast forms
* Compression garments for lymphedema
* Wigs and head coverings for hair loss
* Swimsuits designed to support breast forms
* Maternity bras

For breast cancer survivors, the shop also strives to be a destination for understanding, empathy and support. A breast cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly a lonely journey, but the women who make up Bras for Body & Soul(r) bridge the gap by sharing their own experiences and listening to other women's stories.

"As someone diagnosed with breast cancer and a client of Bras for Body & Soul(r) (BBS), what I can tell you personally is that when I was diagnosed there were two main issues to deal with," reveals Michelle Stewardson, HERS Breast Cancer Foundation Vice-Chair. "The first being the question of whether I would survive or not; the second being the loss of my femininity. Being able to appear the same as before, to the outside world, was incredibly important to my emotional well being."

Stewardson explains that the level of understanding and compassion the shop's staff offers sets Bras for Body & Soul(r) apart from other retailers selling products for women who have survived breast cancer.

"This is our mission and who we are," she says.

For breast cancer survivors, being comfortable physically, as well as with their appearance to the outside world cannot be underscored enough, says the foundation's Board Chair Liz Barron.

"Having comfortable post-mastectomy wear is one small comfort in a difficult time when a woman is facing many new physical and emotional challenges," Barron says.

"It is important for Bras for Body & Soul(r) to provide support, both physical and emotional, to those who live with breast cancer and those who live with the fear of breast cancer. Women experience a wide variety of emotions after a mastectomy.

"A lot of women haven't looked at themselves in the mirror since surgery. We have mirrors that close during the fitting. Only once the client is comfortable do the fitters open the mirrors. Many times our fitters hear the words 'I look beautiful.' Bras for Body & Soul(r) fitters and staff provide compassion, warmth and affection while helping women regain their self-esteem. The importance of wearing a prosthesis for post-mastectomy balance and posture cannot be understated."

For women battling breast cancer, trying to navigate the ins and outs of their health insurance coverage can be exhausting and daunting. It's easy to become intimidated by all the insurance paperwork, and that is why Bras for Body & Soul(r) makes client advocacy one of its most important services, explains Skloot.

"Although the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 provides for insurance coverage for some post-mastectomy products, many women are not aware of their benefits or do not know how to access them," says Skloot. "Bras for Body & Soul(r) is committed to researching and informing women of their particular plan's benefits and assisting them in receiving their maximum benefit. To provide the maximum amount of insurance assistance to breast cancer survivors, the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation and Bras for Body & Soul(r) contracts with all the major insurance companies and Medicare.

"We take on the burden of insurance company interface from verification of benefits to request for prescription to championing client need versus management of costs to claim submission, and finally to settlement of the claim. The survivor who may be going through chemotherapy or radiation as well as all the emotional upheaval doesn't have to deal with any of these issues."

Services for all women
To find out more about services offered at Bras for Body & Soul(r), located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, visit www.hersfund.org and click on "About BBS."

Washington Hospital has developed its Women's Center to combine advanced diagnostic services and an expert clinical staff with a host of wellness and support programs for local women. Its warm, soothing surroundings and personal amenities are specifically designed to help women feel calm and comforted as they benefit from a wide range of easy-to-access health care programs in a single setting.

To learn more about the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com, click on "Services & Programs" and choose "Women's Health" from the drop-down menu.

What: The Annual KEEP ABREAST-Walking Together for Her, a scenic 5K walk/run in support of friends and families facing breast cancer
Why: To foster community spirit and support, provide community education and raise funds to support the programs of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation
When: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008 (Check in is at 7:30 a.m.)
Where: Quarry Lakes East Bay Regional Park
Details: Visit www.hersfund.org for registration information

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