It started with tears, and ended with a trailblazing businessRose was having a bad day. She sent me
an email lamenting she didn’t get the job at the community centre. “I can beat that,” I replied, and told her of my breast cancer diagnosis. She had to agree that I won “the battle of the bad day”.
My first thought upon receiving the news was of my four children. My eldest was 17 and my youngest only 10 years old. I armed myself with statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society of nearly 90% recovery rates before telling them I would be having surgery a few weeks later. Knowing nothing of mastectomy wear or prostheses, I joked that I would be stuffing a sock in my bra for the rest of my life.
We were all looking forward to spending summer in Australia with my extended family, and I hated to disappoint the children, so when my surgeon said I could fly two weeks after surgery we changed the dates and made our plans. It was important to me that I look as normal as possible so I phoned the local lingerie stores. I was taken aback to hear they wouldn’t fit me for a traditional prosthesis until 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. “What am I going to do?” I asked. There was no solution apart from an old bra and a sock.
Brainstorming a solution
I am always sewing something, so I set my mind to the problem. I raided my local Goodwill store and bought all the vests. I sewed pockets in the front and shoved in some sports bra inserts. I thought “I bet everyone does that”, but when I wore the vests after surgery, I caused a sensation: “Amazing”, “Wonderful” and “You should do something with this”!
My vests served me well on my holiday, apart from when airport security made me take the vest off and put it in the tray, and my prosthesis with it. “Oh Mum,” twittered the kids as I walked through the scanner with my arm bent in front of my chest. We had a month of sunshine, beach walks and whale watching and I stretched my arm and shoulder in the pool every day. I was confident and comfortable while my scar healed.
After the holiday
Throughout my chemo, second surgery and radiation, the vests were my go-to outfit— the only thing I could tolerate on my chest and rashes. The hospital staff were so enthusiastic that I took one around to the lingerie shops to see what they thought: “That is so needed”, “Fantastic idea” and, again, “You should do something with this.”
So I did. Along with Rose, my friend turned business partner, we are building a firm foundation for our new venture. We tapped into local mentoring programs for new entrepreneurs, grappled with business plans, patent applications and social media marketing. We constantly refined the design as we got feedback from our testers, until the day...today...when we delivered the patterns to our local fabricmaker for weaving and cutting. Together, we are turning an innovative idea into a reality. We know our vests will bring security, dignity and comfort to women on their breast cancer journey, as they did for me.
We would love you to subscribe at www.bestbreastvestco.com so we can alert you when the vests are for sale. It won’t be long now!