Fitting for their confidence

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Fiji Cancer Society CEO Belinda Chan, third from left, Heather Tait, sitting second from right. They and others are working to restore the confidence of women who have had a masectomy. Picture: FIJI CANCER SOCIETY

It is often said that prosthetic bra forms restore confidence and dignity in women who have undergone mastectomy because of breast cancer.

The loss of positive self-image is among the most common emotional effects women face after a mastectomy.

And in most cases, many survivors report that they feel less attractive and feminine, especially in the eyes of their partner.

However, with the assistance of Heather Tait, Gillian Horton, and Jeannie Auld, who have come from Australia, about 500 breast cancer survivors in Fiji will have their self-confidence restored.

The trio has worked with the Fiji Cancer Society (FCS) for the past six to seven years.

“The bra-fitting program has been going on for quite a while and as a woman when you lose a part of your body especially when it’s visible, you’re kind of like lose a bit of confidence in yourself,” said FCS chief executive officer Belinda Chan.

“You worry about what the community would think — basically start off with your family. So, your self-confidence has hit rock bottom and so this is how the bra-fitting program helps, it helps restore the women’s confidence. It empowers these women, and it allows them to engage with other people because then they can go out, feeling a lot more confident about themselves and how they look.

“We’ve had women who restricted themselves from going out to social functions because they don’t have a prosthetic breast to balance off. At times we see or hear that they stuff socks to make it balance.”

Ms Chan said about 100 women would be assisted.

“What’s given to them is a bra that has a pocket for which you can slide in a prosthetic breast, so it’s like having a boob job done but that’s what the prostheses look like.

“The bra fittings allow the fitters to see that they get a proper fitted bra because over time our breasts change shape. We’re just saying 100 because they go away with two bras and a prosthetic breast.”

She encouraged women who have had a mastectomy to come in numbers for this opportunity.

“We’re just encouraging women who have had a mastectomy regardless of where they’ve been treated because it is for all women who have had a mastectomy.

“This program has always been a winner for women who have had breast cancer surgery. It’s something that they look forward to.

“Some days, we have them come in and they say they have a leak in their prostheses and if we could change it. We have the stock, and we are able to replace, over time it has allowed the local staff members to bra fit and so whenever there’s a need for women to have a bra, we’re able to fit them and provide them with a prosthesis as well.”

Fittings at the Lautoka FCS office were on May 23-24.

In Suva, fittings will begin tomorrow, May 26 and 27 at the CWM Hospital Lancaster Room on Friday and the Oncology Ward on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

On Tuesday May 30, fittings will be done in Labasa.