Lingerie Post Surgery: a survivor speaks
Last month, we interviewed Julia Mercer, head Bra Technician at M&S, which stocks a wide range of lingerie items for women who've had breast cancer surgery. We had a great response to the post, and wanted to look further into what is an increasingly important issue for women of all ages.
Today we meet one of those women, 36-year-old Sam McBride who kindly took time out to tell us about her experiences of finding bras and swimwear following her life-changing surgery.
Since your surgery, what are you main priorities when choosing a good bra?
After surgery, comfort is my main priority. However, I am only 36 and also want to be able to wear the attractive, fashionable bras I wore before. As well as surgery I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy: losing some of my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows affected me greatly, so I want all the more to feel feminine.
How do the M&S post surgery bras work for you in terms of these priorities?
I think M&S are very driven by feedback from customers. I attended an M&S focus group recently and was really impressed at how keen they were to hear about customers' experiences, what customers needed and wanted.
M&S regularly trial new products with the focus group to ensure the products meet all requirements including look, feel and how well they wash - along with making changes to new products. They are particularly keen to know what we like and what style we liked to wear before surgery - which is really important to me.
How did you first find out about M&S' post surgery bras and fitting service?
Breakthrough Breast Cancer made me aware of the service
What do you think of the products and the range on offer?
I am really impressed with the range of post surgery bras! They offer everyday and special occasion bras. The range of colour, style and material is vast. I'd say that the range is wide enough to suit women from their 20s through to their 80s!
As well as underwear M&S also offer post surgery swimwear including bikinis/tankinis for the first time, which I think is fantastic.
Do you have to travel far to get to a participating store?
I do not have any stores close to me, but often purchase online. However, I would like to see the range given more prominence in more stores. I know that M&S constantly review which stores stock the range so hopefully my store will soon have some, or all of the range.
In the meantime, I'll continue to shop online with M&S. It's brilliant that I can have my bras delivered to my store for free and have them fitted properly if I need them to be.
Can you now wear similar lingerie styles to those you used to wear before surgery?
As I had reconstruction surgery at the same time as my mastectomy I am able to wear similar styles to before. I know that not all women are able to do this but M&S really do offer a great range in terms of style so I hope that women are able to find what they need. If they can't, I really would recommend attending a focus group as you get to see just how hard M&S are working at improving the range.
How much does wearing the right lingerie affect your overall confidence?
After my treatment I realise how important the right lingerie is. Breast Cancer can affect how you feel as a woman. At times when I had little hair this was something that could make me feel feminine again.
If you're interested in any of the products discussed in this article you can see M&S' full range of post-surgery bras and swimwear here. - including a helpful PDF guide which lists all the stores that stock the range.
Unsure about how to check your breasts? Breakthrough's easy-to-follow Breast Awareness guide will tell you all you need to know.