By MARY WARD
One in nine women will develop breast cancer by the age of 85.
In Australia, 34% of those women will have a mastectomy during the course of their treatment. That’s over 3% of the Australian female population. In the US, the figure is much higher, closer to 6%.
This is a significant segment of the population. The strong and inspiring group of women who have beaten breast cancer, more likely than not, contains someone you know. Your mum, you sister, your aunt, your grandma, yourself: this is a group of women who have faced months of gruelling treatment and managed to come out the other end.
So, why can’t these warriors buy pretty bras?
It’s not a trivial question. The reality of a life post-mastectomy is that the sexy and stylish lingerie survivors once enjoyed by these women have to be replaced by specialist garments which leave a lot to be desired in the aesthetics department. Lingerie companies pride themselves on developing the confidence of women; why can’t breast cancer survivors be afforded that same experience?
Well, if one American mother-daughter duo has their way, they will be.
Meet Allana Maiden and her mum, Debbie Barrett. Debbie is 21 years cancer free, and an inspiration to her daughter.
After all that her mum had been through, Allana hated her mum struggle to buy – and afford to buy – specialist bras for her post-masectomy body.
So, at the start of this year, she did what any good Gen Y gal would do; she made a Change.org petition asking US lingerie giant, Victoria’s Secret, to make a survivors’ bra, for women who have had a mastectomy.
The petition reads as follows:
Dear Victoria’s Secret:
So many of us have mothers, daughters, and friends who have faced breast cancer. These inspiring women who have had mastectomy surgery as part of their treatment deserve to feel beautiful, too.
Victoria’s Secret is known for helping women feel confident and comfortable. Please celebrate the strength and hope of the survivors in our lives with a “Survivor” line of mastectomy bras.
What happened next was truly extraordinary.
Within a week, the petition had 1000 signatures. Within three weeks, that number had risen to 100,000.
By early February, the pair were meeting with the Vice President of Limited Brands – Victoria’s Secret’s parent company – to discuss the possibility of having bras in their range fitted with prosthesis.
They told the Daily Beast:
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but it’s good to know that I’ve caught the ear of somebody who’s higher up in the company and really seems like they’re interested in finding out more about this,” Maiden says. “It’s really gone along a lot faster than I thought it would,” her mom adds. “I’m surprised that it has, and I’m thankful that they are taking it seriously.”
Barrett drives an hour and a half from her small hometown of Saltville, Va., to a specialty store for mastectomy bras that run her around $70. “It’s this huge task just to go get a bra, and I wanted her to have a more positive, normal experience with bra shopping like I get to have,” Maiden says of her inspiration for creating the petition.
Few department or lingerie stores carry bras outfitted with prostheses. Those that do often have a limited selection, and shoppers complain that they’re often hidden in a back room, available only by special request.
Victoria’s Secret is a brand that have long supported breast cancer awareness and research. The company appears to be interested in the proposition, but they haven’t committed to any action.
Which is where you come in.
Allana and Debbie have set a goal of 150,000 signatures for their petition. At the time of writing, they were just above 120,000.
Help breast cancer survivors have access to reasonably priced, beautiful lingerie by signing the petition here. If you like, you can share your story or the story of a woman close to you in the comments section on the web page.
Those comments are printed out by Allana and Debbie, ready to be presented to Victoria’s Secret. They have already presented a chunk of the signatures when they met Limited Brands’ Vice President.
So, sign the petition. Because your mum, your sister, your friend, your neighbour: they deserve to feel sexy and confident, like the sexy and confident women they are.