And what exactly does "closing the loop on breast cancer" mean anyway?

BRA Day With a Twist!

Did you know October 17th is BRA Day?

Well if you didn’t, now you do! This acronym stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day.

I wrote a post earlier on this, so I won’t rehash what I’ve already said. I stand by my words in that post. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it if you missed it.

As a sort of mini-rebellion, I thought I’d write a different kind of post for BRA Day; one with a very different twist.

It’s about bras!

Bras are a big deal. Actually this is not true; it’s breasts that are a big deal. Society is obsessed with them. All you have to do is look around.

Even during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, at times the emphasis on breasts vs women’s lives is pretty blatant, and downright ridiculous. It’s sexualizing a deadly disease; it just is.

Do these photos really make you think about breast cancer awareness?

I didn’t think so.

If a person didn’t know better, you might sometimes think it is “breast awareness month” instead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But back to bras.

Thinking back I realize I’ve had a lot of bras. I’ve had training bras, padded bras, push-up bras, lacy bras, under-wire (yikes, that even sounds bad) bras, nursing bras, black bras, nude colored bras, various other colored bras and sports bras to name a few.

Bras come and bras go.

Following my bilateral mastectomy I discovered none of the bras in my drawer worked for me anymore.

So what’s a gal to do?

Well, after trying out all my old reliables stashed in the drawers, as well as some newer versions of the same, I tried the Ahhh Bra, the Genie bra, a pocketed for prostheses bra and going with no bra.

And yes, I’ve consulted with a professional post-mastectomy bra fitter.

What I’ve come to discover is that probably no bra will ever be completely comfortable for me again for various reasons.

What seems to work best for me now are camisoles.

This is another tiny, relatively unimportant piece of my “new normal.”

But it is one more reason I find this BRA Day acronym to be just plain silly.

Do I support every woman being informed about her reconstruction options?

Absolutely!

And this is another problem.

No, it’s the biggest problem.

What about every woman?

Once again, what about the uninsured?

What about the under-insured?

Who is BRA Day really for?

The fact that BRA Day was instigated by plastic surgeons is problematic.

I don’t have anything against plastic surgeons. I have two of them for crying out loud. I need to go back to number two at some point for some tweaking.

I do have insurance and this tweaking probably won’t be covered.

Many women do not have insurance or do not have adequate coverage. This is just a fact.

And here’s another important fact. Reconstruction often brings with it complications and the need for follow-up, sometimes lots of follow-up.

Will this also be part of the BRA Day conversation?

Probably not.

When BRA Day embraces every woman who wants to choose reconstruction, then I will be the first to change my mind.

(But I will still think it’s a silly acronym).

Singer and song writer Jewel is the official spokesperson for BRA Day and I would never wish to question her motives and I’m not.

I’m still a fan, Jewel, but not this time.

BRA Day, count me out.

Again.

And by the way, when I find a bra I can comfortably wear all day long, that will be my own personal BRA Day!

Do you support BRA Day?

Why or why not?

Do you have tips to share regarding post-mastectomy under-garments? 

And what exactly does “closing the loop on breast cancer” mean anyway?

38 thoughts on “BRA Day With a Twist!

  1. This is a fabulous post! Your question nails it: What about EVERY woman? The question is as much about economics as it is about access to healthcare in the most basic sense for early detection.

    This truly is Breast Awareness Month. There’s no doubt about it.

  2. Nancy! You had me laughing out loud, not sure that was your intention, but you did. You are so right! NO bra fits anymore, so many issues caused by reconstruction, breasts will never be “normal” again, yet people seem to think reconstruction takes care of that, but we know better. Ranting a bit here. Love this post and if you ever succeed in achieving your own Bra Day, please share your discovery. xoxo

    1. Stacey, I still remember the post you wrote about your bra search. My intent was to make you laugh, so I’m glad to hear you did! Reconstruction and all that comes with it is no piece of cake that’s for sure. And yes, I will let you know if I ever succeed in making that discovery, if you promise to do the same! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Good post, Nancy. Stupid name – BRA Day! Some states guarantee coverage for reconstruction. But it should be for everyone, not dependent on what state you happen to live in.

    I never thought too much about bras before, except for which one looked best. I was surprised how important it was after. And becomes even more important as time passes – right mast w/ recon, left real but reduced for symmetry. After 11 years, the real one is doing what real breasts do. Finding a bra that supports, but doesn’t just compress, and looks relatively normal is a challenge.

    1. Julie, I imagine it is really tough when you are dealing with one breast reconstructed and one “original.” I find the compression to be a huge issue now for whatever reason. I seem to be more sensitive which is weird when there is no true sensation. Finding a comfortable bra has always been challenging, but now it’s even more so for me. Thanks for sharing about something so personal.

  4. I have mixed feelings about BRA Day, too, and do like the Canadian version of the event more than the USA push, which seems too commercial. As far as bra wearing goes, have you tried Royce, Amoena, or Anita brands? Just curious as to what works and what doesn’t for my own readers. I agree we should have a real BRA Day that helps women find the perfect fit! that would be worthwhile for women of all sizes, shapes, and stages of life.

    1. Elisabeth, It seems the USA is good at commercializing a lot things. I don’t think I’ve tried Royce. Something to look into perhaps, but ultimately I think I’ll mostly be sticking to camisoles now. Thanks for commenting.

  5. On the bra topic, there is a company that’s trying to get started up that will make bras specially designed for women with one or more reconstructed breasts. I can’t remember the name or URL off hand. Will hit google momentarily.

  6. Nancy,
    I appreciate this post and your previous one about BRA Day. What a sorry choice of acronym in my opinion. And the motive behind the awareness efforts? Questionable when instigated by plastic surgeons. BRA burning anyone?

    1. Lisa, Yes, I agree about the acronym and also that the motives behind this whole thing are questionable. As I said, when the needs of all women who want reconstruction will be met, then I’m in.

  7. Nancy – I loved this post! Following my reconstruction I had the most difficult time finding any bra that was suitable and comfortable. The bras recommended by my plastic surgeon were awful and I thought I may never find one! Luckily I did and I am very happy. I searched the Internet high and low for bra recommendations but came to realize every woman is completely different. Once I came to terms that underwire will never work for me again, everything fell in to place. Once again, great post about this silly silly BRA day.

    1. Jessi, I’m glad you liked this post. Thank you so much. I’ve never found under-wire bras to be comfortable. They never worked for me before breast cancer and certainly don’t now. You’re so right, every woman is different and has to find what works best for her in this case too. No surprise there, right? Thanks for commenting.

  8. The Federal Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998
    The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) contains important protections for women with breast cancer who choose to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. It was signed into law on October 21, 1998. The US Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services have oversight of this law.

    Under WHCRA, mastectomy benefits must include coverage for:

    - reconstruction of the breast on which the mastectomy was performed
    - surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical or balanced appearance
    - the prostheses (or breast implant)
    - any physical complications at all stages of mastectomy, including lymphedema

    http://www.breastreconstruction.org/breast_reconstruction_insurance_coverage.html

    1. Brenda, Thanks for including this information which I also linked to in my first BRA Day post. The problem is that this law says insurance must cover this stuff. Again, the uninsured and under-insured are left out. This is not acceptable to me. Thanks for sharing.

  9. BRA day just feels like something else that will divide the breast cancer community. I chose NOT to do reconstruction because of my own physical situation. I feel judged for that decision, and this day doesn’t help.

    1. Sara, I’m sorry you feel judged; that’s not right. We certainly don’t need divisions within the breast cancer community. Having said that, until we meet the needs of all women that’s exactly what we have isn’t it? Divisions. Thanks so much for sharing your well thought-out comment.

  10. What we do not fully understand and what we might pass judgement on WILL divide and fragment our community. As in all things one must research and question the issue at hand,THOROUGHLY, before passing judgement. The BRA day movement MAY turn out to be a wonderful step in allowing and empowering women to make these tough decisions with as much knowledge and information as possible. I just don’t see how this could be a “bad” thing? They’re just starting out… Give them a chance. We will know sooner or layer if their mission has a hidden agenda or not. WE will question THEM. THAT is our role in this.

    1. Marcia, Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t believe questioning needs to result in division. Division is not my intent at all. I believe questioning and open dialogue is good for all. Again, until the needs of all women are being addressed, I can’t support BRA Day. That is where the division here really is, leaving out certain women, namely the under or uninsured.

  11. Nancy I believe healthy discourse is always a good thing!:)
    No argument from me there!
    There are a few foundations which are providing assistance (Breastoration) , Hope Chest etc. we need more financial resources as well as Doctors who are willing to donate their services/times/and facilities . I do know of one group who do just that. It’s something ..it’s a start.. I am uninsured now for the past 16 months and am painfully aware of the difficulties in obtaining healthcare.
    Additionally, I opted for no recon initially (2 1/2years) and feel as though I’ve seen both sides of the recon/ no recon decision.
    I love your Blog and viewpoints ,Nancy! Lets always keep the dialogue going!
    Warmly,
    Marcia

    1. Marcia, Thank goodness there are a few foundations out there providing financial and other needed services. I realize there are a handful of plastic surgeons donating time and expertise as well, but frankly, it’s just not good enough. I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties. You certainly have a unique perspective having been on both sides of the reconstruction/no reconstruction issue. Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog and thanks for adding to this important discussion. Let’s definitely keep the dialogue going!

  12. “When BRA Day embraces every woman who wants to choose reconstruction, then I will be the first to change my mind.”

    BRA Day does embrace every woman. When I personally started trying to communicate to as many women as possible about the options breast reconstruction offers to women(back in ’06 after my first mastectomy)I was not only aiming my message at women who had health insurance. I was one of the fortunate ones who had health insurance and had just come through a successful breast reconstruction. But I had to do my own digging to educate myself about my options, and by a twist of fate, just missed having an outdated procedure that was about on the verge of being phased out.

    I welcome BRA Day as another avenue for women to communicate with other women about this important, healing treatment. There are many reconstructive surgeons who provide their services for under-insured or uninsured women. I know some of them. In my state of Minnesota, our Medicaid program does cover reconstruction, and the surgeon who spoke at the BRA Day event yesterday, that I was so honored to help organize, provides reconstruction for any and all of these women who come to him for help – eventho the DIEP flap procedure is a very time-consuming surgery requiring a highly skilled microsurgeon, as you know, and he gets very little monetary compensation for these patients. Yet he turns no one away. They get the best.

    Your stance doesn’t make sense to me, any more than if you said you wouldn’t want to be involved in any health awareness day unless you were certain that every individual that needed treatment would get it. Awareness/education is the stepping stone to advocacy and gaining political power. Not everyone has access to clean water in this country, and certainly not in the world. Refusing to participate in organized efforts to educate the population about water pollution and ways to ameliorate it – unless everyone has access to it – doesn’t advance the cause. Education empowers. There are women with insurance who don’t know they have a right to reconstruction, let alone that they have choices. Every woman needs to know what’s out there, and I believe every woman has a right to the treatment, regardless of her income level. I have faith that BRA Day – and all who help to spread the word, in whatever context, whether they be cancer survivors or healthcare providers – will led to empowerment of women who can then demand this treatment be available to all breast cancer survivors.

    I agree that the “B.R.A.” in the BRA Day name of the event may lead people to misinterpret the intent of the day. That’s unfortunate. Hopefully people will take the time to look behind the letters. Dismissing the intent and spirit of the day because of the title is throwing out the baby with the bath water. I think we’re likely all in agreement on the importance of the information getting out there to women and also that all women deserve the treatment, despite income level. Our difference may be in how we go about reaching that goal. I’ll stand behind education/empowerment, any day. Thanks for the soapbox of your blog!

    1. Eve, Thanks for adding your thoughts. Of course, I’m pro education and empowerment. That’s why I write this blog. We just don’t agree on the means in this case. I appreciate your opinions, but I stand by my words.

  13. Okay, I just have to point out… if you’re under-insured or uninsured, you’re left out of ALL medical treatment. Why is awareness of reconstructive options and rights a bad thing? How is “awareness” leaving anyone out? By your logic you should be offended at any “awareness” day in the U.S.

    The U.S. healthcare system is what is leaving out the people you’re concerned with. Seems like you’re turning BRA Day into a red herring.

  14. I never saw the original post until now, so I will comment on both. BRA DAY? No support from me. Denture Day would be higher on the list…you need teeth to eat. BREAST CANCER PATIENT EDUCATION ACT? No,if anything, then an act requiring every hospital to have sufficient TRAINED nurse navigators and hospital patient advocates for all patients, diseases and conditions. BREAST RECONSTRUCTION? I can certainly understand the importance to many patients, but what about warnings. Here’s just one: 30% of patients metastasize. With implants you risk infection. MBC means heightened risk of infection. Infection means no treatment. Stopping MBC treatment speeds death. BREAST FIXATION? It’s everywhere. From the ta-ta’s to ACS’s new video http://tinyurl.com/8odf5g4. The talk is all about saving what is expendable — the breast, not about saving lives. REMEMBER … Breast cancer in the breast is NOT fatal. A small number may die from treatment, but not from cancer in their breast. Quoting Dr. Eric Winer: 100% of breast cancer deaths are caused by “metastatic” breast cancer. So why isn’t MBC the focus? I’d sure like to know. METAvivor is trying to return reality to the issue with its mbcaware.org campaign. I leave you with my favorite quote on what is expendable and what is not: “Take the Coconuts, Save the Tree.”

    1. CJ, I am so glad to hear from you. There has been some back lash on my original BRA Day piece at Huffington Post. Hearing your words validates my opinion even further. Thank you. Your point about what is important to save, lives, is right on and that’s where the emphasis should always be. Love the quote. And thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of mbc.

  15. Nancy….
    I just read through all of the comments and of course, (and as always), there is a wonderful and thoughtful discussion and exchange of information…

    CJ’s words are exceptionally wise…..

    For me, this goes straight to the heart of the matter:

    “No,if anything, then an act requiring every hospital to have sufficient TRAINED nurse navigators and hospital patient advocates for all patients, diseases and conditions.”

    A day isn’t going to do it… and the options for reconstruction are vast but then, there are so many “options” with regard to the treatment of breast cancer and so many different sub specialties that come into play, some of which may be dependent upon prior choices…. having someone to guide through the entire process is key. In my own case, my surgeon was fine with lumpectomy which would have meant radiation. Only because I am a self proclaimed OCD “nut” did I truly research all aspects of radiation, recurrence statistics and what is often NOT discussed, the fact that we are all at increased risk for a NEW breast cancer by virtue of our own diagnoses. Recurrence v. Second primary seems to be always lost in translation….. along, of course with ALL of the mets stats.

    Excellent “Points” my friend…. and again… kudos on the HuffPost. Will have to see what the pushback was all about….

    Love,
    AM

    1. Ann Marie, Thanks for your excellent points. I agree, CJ’s comments cut to the chase don’t they? Thanks so much for commenting and for the kudos too. Yes, feel free to check out my BRA Day post there. That’s where the push back was.

  16. Still searching for that bra that will feel right, also.
    Because of how extensive my mastectomy was and it was followed by extensive radiation, my only reconstruction option was DIEP flap. And I had to wait at least one year after radiation. (Mine was almost a year and a half later.)
    Because I had a recurrence during that year I had to wait, my oncologist had to approve my getting the surgery. If you are not stable or NED, or if you are in certain treatments, some MBC women might never be able to get reconstruction.
    One other thing, it turns out there are only two surgeons in my state who do DIEP flap reconstructions. I’m sure there are many women who can only have certain reconstructions who may have trouble finding a surgeon either near enough to them or on their insurance.

    1. Elizabeth, It is hard to find that comfortable bra isn’t it? I have heard that is is sometimes hard for mbc women to get reconstruction. And you are so right about that access thing. There is great disparity, due to various reasons, as far as what is and is not available for some women. Thank you for sharing.

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