A breast cancer diagnosis can strike fear into the hearts of even the strongest of women.
But it’s what comes after surgical intervention that may be more difficult, says a Gadsden business owner.
The New You Bra Boutique caters to women who have undergone a mastectomy.
“Many women out there just have nowhere to go to get this kind of help,” said Janice Gray, The New You Bra Boutique owner.
The New You Bra Boutique is one of the few specialty post-mastectomy fitting boutiques in the area, outside of Birmingham metro area.
In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer, according to breastcancer.org.
Establishing her store
Gray started her business in Gadsden in 1998 after working for many years for an orthotics business.
“They needed someone to handle the mastectomy side so I went and got the training and certification,” Gray said. “I continued to work there for a few years, but decided I needed to get my own place.
“I hated when women would come in and have to work with a man to get fitted. It could be very uncomfortable for the woman. I also hate it when a woman would have to sit in a room full of men to wait her turn. What she is there for it pretty intimate.”
Tucked in a storefront in downtown Gadsden, Gray’s shop caters strictly to women. Private fitting rooms are utilized for fittings and education.
“Mastectomies are not only a cosmetic issue for a woman, but it can also be a medical issue,” Gray said. “It can cause a woman to be off balance, throw the spine out of alignment and cause a woman to have a fall risk.
“We treat both sides. We treat not only the medical side, but I believe if you look good and have confidence, you will take care of yourself.”
Gray believes often times a woman hears the word cancer and everything that comes after it becomes a blur.
“It can be an overwhelming time when you get your diagnosis,” she said.
“I think, too, the physicians and nurses can get so caught up in treating the disease, they may not take care of the woman and her emotional needs.
“We are here to help educate women, their spouses and family as much as we can.”
Initially, women are fitted with a prosthetic covered in soft fabric, with a silicone core giving some weight to the prosthetic.
As a woman heals from surgery, she is upgraded to a bra with a special pocket in the cup to hold a silicone or vinyl prosthetic. It too has weight relative to its size.
“We have all types of sizes and shapes to fit a woman,” Gray said. “It may take a little of experimentation to get exactly the right fit and look, but we will.”
Mastectomy bras are generally covered by insurance and insurance will cover the cost of replacement bras annually.
“These bras have a job to do and they do stretch out and wear out,” Gray said. “Weight loss or gain, changes in bodies after treatment and more can cause a bra to need to be replaced.
“If a woman is unsure about her insurance coverage, she can call us with her information and we can call her insurance company to find out.”
Selling only the best
Each product in Gray’s store has been thoroughly researched and tried personally by Gray and her employees.
The mastectomy fitting room is decked out with seemingly endless choices in bra styles and colors. Bathing suits are also an option for women.
“There are no industrial, nondescript bras here,” Gray joked.
“We want a woman to have choices and be able to get something that looks and feels good. We have all types of bras, from T-backs to more supportive bras to lacy, feminine options.”
Clients are urged to make appointments for fittings or educational services, particularly with COVID-19 being an issue.
Gray has had ladies come in prior to mastectomies to see what their options are and to learn more about what to expect after surgery.
Initial fittings take 30 to 60 minutes she said.
“Lots of times a woman can come in for a fitting and leave with her bras,” Gray said. “But sometimes we will be forced to order a particular style or band size for a woman.
“We always try to learn about their lifestyle and job so we can fit them with something that will be practical and comfortable.”
Gray said finding the right size, make and fit following a mastectomy is a process.
“I always tell my ladies that this is not a sprint, but it is a marathon,” Gray said.
So much more
Gray’s store caters to not only women with mastectomies. She also does bra fittings and carries a wide array of hard-to-find cup sizes.
“We have cup sizes up to an O cup and band sizes up to a 54,” she said.
She also carries a variety of specialty items, for weddings, proms and special occasions.
“I tell my brides to allow at least six weeks,” Gray said. “I also ask them to bring their gown or dress with them, before it has been altered, if at all possible.
“We also stock a ton of accessories that will work for anyone and everyone – clear straps, bra extenders, specialty bra wash and nipple covers, among other things.”
She also carries a line of silky robes and nighties for bridal parties and bridal shower gifts.
Find out more about The New You Bra Boutique by logging on to their Facebook page or website, or call them at 256-546-6398.