The Tri-City Voice, January 21, 2009
Vera Packard, the new executive director of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, would like residents in the community to know that Bras for Body & Soul is not just a bra shop.
Bras for Body & Soul, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont, represents an integral facet of the nonprofit foundation. Most importantly, all monies raised through the shop’s sales support the foundation’s goal to serve all breast cancer survivors in the local community, she says.
“For me, Bras for Body & Soul is the core of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation and it is our main program,” Packard explains. “There are many foundations and groups helping with breast cancer, but we fulfill a very specific need for women dealing with this disease including post mastectomy garments, bras, prostheses, wigs, turbans, hats and scarves. A client of ours told me recently that her doctor gave her life back and Bras for Body & Soul gave her self-esteem back by fitting her with the right bra and prostheses.
“The heart of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation is about the care and support we give to survivors so they can lift their heads up and they can feel good about themselves even after facing this challenging disease.”
Services at Bras for Body & Soul and the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation include:
- Personal fittings for bras and/or prosthesis, by appointment
- Advocacy for health insurance benefits (The shop’s staff will negotiate the insurance bill process from beginning to end.)
- Educational seminars for women about bras, fittings, breast health
- Experiential workshops for women who have had breast surgery
Polly Sherman, a nurse and manager of the shop, says that while Bras for Body & Soul offers a full range of products and services to breast cancer survivors, it is the spirit of the shop that makes this program unique.
“When clients walk in here, we really listen to them,” she says. “After someone’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s about being heard and we really listen to their stories. Most of us that work here have come for very special reasons, either as survivors or as a way to give back. I think the caring and compassion are very apparent and helps Bras for Body & Soul so unique.”
Packard and Sherman say their goal for the shop’s next five years is to begin helping women at the onset of breast cancer diagnosis.
Bras for Body & Soul Serves All Women Who Need a Good Fitting Bra
“We would love for the community to know that when any woman buys a bra here, she will not only be fitted by a specialist, but she will also be supporting our mission to help women with breast cancer,” Packard says. “One of our primary goals in the next five years is to become the No. 1 in doctors’ mind when they talk to breast cancer survivors, enabling us to care for them in advance and help them in the beginning of their treatment.”
Sherman adds that there are so many unexpected trials that women face after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment – including hair loss and post-surgical complications. The compassion and support women receive inside Bras for Body & Soul, she says, can help them weather the storm.
“Ideally, we would like women to come here when they’re diagnosed, because when a woman is diagnosed, it can feel like her entire world has fallen apart,” Sherman says. “We can give them information about different products that can make them feel whole again. We fit women for bra and prosthesis and we also have a wig specialist on staff for women facing hair loss. We also carry a large variety of turbans and hats – we have everything a woman needs to support her through a terrible time.”
In some cases, after a mastectomy, a woman might develop lymphedema, a swelling typically in the arms or legs that occurs when a blockage in the lymphatic system prevents the lymph fluid in an arm or leg from draining adequately. The condition is chronic and requires physical therapy and special compression garments to manage symptoms.
“Lymphedema adds insult to injury after breast cancer surgery,” Sherman says. “It’s disfiguring and uncomfortable and it’s another obstacle in her recovery. Soon we will provide our clients with lymphedema garments as well.”
The HERS Breast Cancer Foundation is also in the process to partner with the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation to provide lymphedema compression garments to women of the community who could not otherwise afford them.
“The Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation has committed to providing the money to help these women,” Packard says. “We believe that working together is key, especially in these tough economic times.”
Sherman says there’s no end to the stories of strength and courage that touch those working in the shop.
“Everybody knows someone who’s been touched by breast cancer,” she says.
To learn more about Bras for Body & Soul, a program of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, call (510) 790-1911 or visit www.hersbreastcancerfoundation.org. The shop is located at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 130, in Fremont, across the street from Washington Hospital.
To find out more about local treatment for lymphedema through Washington Hospital’s Lymphedema Services program, visit www.whhs.com, click on “Services & Programs” and select “Lymphedema Services” from the drop-down menu.
For more information about the comprehensive services offered through the Washington Women’s Center, visit www.whhs.com, click on “Services & Programs” and select “Women’s Health” from the drop-down menu.