Farrell Friedenberg is the owner of Jay Ann Intimates, a shop in Huntingdon Valley, PA that fits breast cancer survivors for specialized bras and camis designed to accommodate mastectomies or lumpectomies, from immediately after surgery and onward.
I spoke to Jackie K., a customer at Jay Ann Intimates, about her experience there. She had a right-breast mastectomy without reconstruction and bought the Amoena Lara bra in size 40D, along with a prosthesis (Style 1022 American Breast Care Lightweight Asymmetric, size 8R) to wear inside it. Jackie says:
My first experience at Jay Ann Intimates was very, very easy. I was made to feel very comfortable during the fitting. It can be a little intimidating especially your first time out for a fitting. Farrell and her team are professionally trained in this area and it shows. I was and still am a shy person when it comes to undressing in front of strangers...friends for that matter too. Anyway, I find it very easy to purchase a prosthesis with Farrell and her co-workers at her shop. Even the paperwork is done in a quick and easy manner..they know their stuff.
I also interviewed Farrell to find out more about what her job entails. Here, she shares what goes into the process of fitting a woman who has or has had breast cancer.
Bras Outside the Box: How is fitting a customer dealing with breast cancer different from a standard bra fitting?
Farrell Friedenberg: First, there are questions: did the woman have a full mastectomy or a partial (also known as a lumpectomy)? Was there any reconstruction? Any radiation treatments- even if it was years ago?
Because we are a retail lingerie shop as well as a DME (durable medical equipment) provider, we fit women in all different stages of their breast cancer journey. If the woman is missing a breast, or part of a breast, we fit for a breast prosthesis as well as pocket bras. The pocket holds the prosthesis (also called a breast form) secure to the woman's chest wall and restores her former symmetry.
Women who have had reconstruction can also still be uneven after the surgery. Radiation can affect the breast size even years later. And most importantly, post-mastectomy products are a covered insurance benefit.
BOTB: What are the bras (and camis) you most often recommend for breast cancer and/or mastectomy/lumpectomy, and why are these your top picks?
FF: Immediately following surgery, the Amoena 2105 Post Surgery Camisole (now called Michelle) is my first choice, as it has two velcro attached drain pouches and is padded with lightweight puffs for comfort. [Editor's note: see this article for an explanation of how post-surgery camisoles work.]
A good basic go-to bra is the American Breast Care 103. It has a great fit, is very soft and comfortable, and is available in an extensive size range and a variety of colors.
Other products I recommend include the Amoena Valetta cami, and swimsuits by Amoena and Anita. Both companies make fashionable swimwear with pockets for breast forms.
[Editor's note: see the gallery at the end of this post for photos of the above products.]
BOTB: Which items available for breast cancer patients are typically covered by insurance?
FF: Everyone should know their benefits. Every survivor should know where they can be fit by an in-network provider.
Many women have plans that have yearly deductibles and co-pays. Some plans only provide coverage if you go to a particular provider.
Typically, insurance covers the following: two post-surgical camisoles for the time immediately following surgery until they can be fit for a bra and prosthesis, which is about four to six weeks after surgery; two to four bras per year; one silicone breast prosthesis per side, every other year; and one non-silicone breast prosthesis per side, every six months. All products must be "medically necessary." Therefore, we require a new prescription every year for our files.
BOTB: Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience fitting this population?
FF: As a third-generation business owner and certified mastectomy fitter, I am honored to make someone smile again. The connection we make with customers spans over three generations. We fit grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters at all stages of their lives.