Survivors of breast cancer hear again and again that they should eat well and maintain an active lifestyle. The Susan G. Komen Foundation lists a few benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle on their website.
“Being physically active can improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, etc…It also lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes."
The American Cancer Society recommends that breast cancer survivors “get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week,” to decrease their risk of mortality from breast cancer and for overall health.
But a woman can quickly feel discouraged when trying to find a sports bra to meet the needs of her new breasts after treatment. At this point, the woman’s breasts, the very things that made her sick, continue to stand in her way even after she is cancer-free.
What some survivors might not realize is that the process of finding a sports bra doesn’t have to be difficult and painful. There are bras and professionally trained Bra Fit Specialists that exist to make healthy lifestyles a reality for any woman.
"I love when I have the chance to fit a woman who shops with us who has gone through this and is still running…our breasts are intimate, feminine and can make us feel beautiful. That is why losing them can feel like such a big loss,” says Nancy Staib, the General Manager of Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford, CT. "There are tears of joy, sadness and the unknown in our fitting rooms, but these women are all strong and courageous!"
Staib was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and received a single mastectomy. She runs and remains active six years later. Every so often, a woman anticipating or recovering from breast cancer treatments comes into the store and finds solace in the fact that Staib has been through exactly what she has. She speaks to them as an example of what an active life post-breast cancer can look like.
"Since I only had a single mastectomy I am 'lopsided'. I am now a C on one side and a D on the other,” she says. “Even the textures and movement between each breast is different.”
Changes in breast size and shape occur naturally, but these variables, plus others, can drastically change after a major breast cancer treatment. For Staib, her needs from a bra are common of women who’ve had single mastectomies, but they can make finding a sports bra somewhat difficult.
We asked Staib about her choice of bra and she told us that one sports bra many women turn to when starting to exercise after treatment is the Brooks Fiona.
The Fiona is a great place to start because it offers high support, without molding or shaping in the cups. There is extra padding on the hook and eye closures, a plush band, and adjustable straps. For many women, pressure points near scars can be bothersome, and the all-over softness and adjustable nature of the Fiona offers two-fold relief so women feel comfortable, but also feel as though their bra is supportive enough during physical activity. While the Fiona may not be the perfect bra for everyone, as no one bra is, Staib says many women find that it meets their needs.
"There are so many days I go home after work feeling so good that I helped someone find her perfect bra. We have women that have lost weight, gained weight, and changed shape due to breast cancer.”
Because she’s been through it herself, one of Staib’s biggest joys in life is the ability to make an active lifestyle a possibility for a woman who may be skeptical.
She recalls fitting a customer who had been through an experience similar to hers.
"One story that’s stayed with me involved a woman that seemed quiet, she was sad and only gave me short answers. She just kept telling me that it had to be front closure and that she didn’t know what size. It took a little compassion and patience but I finally asked her if she was having breast reduction surgery. She said yes and teared up. She revealed that the doctors had found some questionable lumps, but due to the density of her breasts they wanted to do a reduction so it would be easier to monitor her. When I told her that I am a six-year breast cancer survivor and I still run, do yoga and swim she brightened up and said she hoped she would have the same spirit and energy that I do after everything. That was six months ago. She came in recently to buy new sneakers, bought new bras, looks and feels great and we hugged and cried together again!"
At Fleet Feet Sports, we believe that all bras should empower women, make them feel beautiful, and fit their bodies, no matter what. This story from Nancy Staib is just one of many showcasing the power of a properly fit bra and how a Bra Fit Specialist that sees sports bras not as another piece of clothing, but as a gateway to a new life, can be truly life changing.
Nancy is a 35 veteran of retail where she managed stores such as Old Navy, Victoria's Secret and Athleta before joining Fleet Feet Sports – West Hartford in August of 2014 as General Manager and chief merchandiser. She was instrumental in bringing the Fleet Feet Women’s Annex, home to the largest in-store selection of sports bras in the US, to life and excels at the art by both listening and asking the right questions.