Reach for Recovery and Dr Justus Apffelstaedt: Supporting patients in the breast cancer journey

Doctor Justus Apffelstaedt is collaborating with the national non-profit breast cancer support group Reach for Recovery to raise awareness and funds for their Ditto Project, which provides silicone prostheses to women with breast cancer.

THE CAPE PENINSULA BRANCH OF REACH FOR RECOVERY ASSISTS THE WESTERN CAPE DITTO PROJECT WITH THE PROVISION OF MASTECTOMY BRAS

The mastectomy bra will be available from mid-October 2021!

COURTESY OF THE CAPE PENINSULA BRANCH OF REACH FOR RECOVERY AND AVAILABLE VIA THE DITTO PROJECT WESTERN CAPE

Why was the mastectomy bra developed?

The Cape Peninsula branch of Reach for Recovery has been looking into the development of a mastectomy bra for some time. The idea originated in 2017 at the 50th birthday celebration in Mossel Bay of Reach for Recovery in South Africa.

State patients do not have the luxury of shopping at a mastectomy boutique for a proper mastectomy bra after they have received an external breast form from The Ditto Project. Most of them do not wear the proper bra or the correct size to support the external prosthesis.

Most mastectomy bras are imported and very costly.

With Covid-19, the previous company which the Cape Peninsula branch of Reach for Recovery were working with in 2019, couldn’t assist anymore. Shona Macdonald, founder of Thursdays Lingerie & Swimwear, contacted the National Manager of Reach for Recovery, Stephanie van Deventer on 2 March 2020 to see how they could be of assistance to Reach for Recovery.

Carla Lind, the Regional Chair for Reach for Recovery Western Cape and volunteer Michele Coe, ran with the project and were given permission to use the Cape Peninsula branch for a mastectomy bra pilot project by  Reach for Recovery Chairperson, Stephne Jacobs and National Manager, Stephanie van Deventer.

Mercia Abrahams (photograph on the right) has become the test model after her mastectomy (and is also the official fitter for the Ditto prosthesis at Cape Peninsula branch).

The design and difference of a mastectomy bra

 

It has taken a very long time to find a local company willing to produce a mastectomy bra according to very specific specifications to fit the Ditto prosthesis and on a scale that makes it cost-effective.

The product development process for creating any type of underwear is iterative and becomes even more complex when adding the weight of an external prosthesis. Thursdays Lingerie and Swimwear used their supportive Cape Everlasting Wireless Bralette pattern as a baseline for the mastectomy bra. After consultation with Reach for Recovery, this was then developed into the bra specification that can be seen on the left.

The bra specification provides more coverage than the baseline bra pattern and is also designed to hold the weight of a silicon prosthesis. An internal, stretch mesh layer acts as a thin pocket on both breasts to allow the prosthesis to easily slide in and be kept firmly in place during wear.

The team has gone through three sample rounds, adjusting the pattern for the ultimate fit, before grading the pattern to fit smaller and bigger sizes. The bra also features a wide under band (the band that goes under the cups and round the back). The under band is an important feature of a mastectomy bra. They help the bra to stay in place and are often wider than on a standard bra.

The straps on a mastectomy bra are wider than those on a standard bra, which is more comfortable for most women, especially the more overweight patient, and if they are wearing a size 12 prosthesis, that can be very heavy.

There are a possible 44 bra sizes that can be made to fit the 12 prosthetics sizes. The Reach for Recovery team has been trained on how to measure bra sizes and has been collecting patient data so they can more accurately determine which sizes to focus on.

Once the patterns are complete, a size curve will be developed that will be used just for fitting, and a monthly order submitted; based on demand, minimizing waste and providing the best possible support for the patients.

A mastectomy bra is about minimal detailing. Shona and her team have developed a mastectomy bra using cotton Lycra that is functional and stylish, with a simple lace border.

WHAT THE DITTO PROJECT PAYS FOR THE MASTECTOMY BRA

Product Description Price
Sample bras for size curve R310*
Bras for purchase R340

* Keeping a “sample size curve” for fitting purposes will help to determine the best size per client. It will also prevent new bras getting dirty or worn through the fitting process.

The price of the bras to the patients will range from R120.00-R150.00. The price difference between the purchase price of the bra’s and the price to patients will be, for the time being, sponsored by the Cape Peninsula The Ditto Project branch.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TOWARDS A BRA TO GO TO A RECIPIENT PLEASE USE THESE DETAILS:

Cape Peninsula banking details:

Standard Bank Mowbray

Account name: Reach for Recovery Cape Peninsula
Branch code: 024909
Account number: 075220636
Reference: Mastecbra

MORE ABOUT THURSDAYS LINGERIE AND SWIMWEAR

In the words of Shona:

“Thursdays is ladies night! We love this day because it’s fun but still a bit serious. We wanted to leave the name of our brand up for interpretation by the person wearing the garment!”

I started Thursdays because I struggled to find bras that fit me properly that were both beautiful and affordable. It didn’t take a lot of research to see how many women had the same challenge as me, and how the lack of representation in mass retail was affecting women’s relationships with themselves and their bodies. I was so surprised that the people who needed the support of bras the most, were the ones who had the most trouble finding them. I consider myself a creative problem solver, with an aspiration to make a positive impact on the world, so starting a business that solved a personal pain point but also that makes women feel beautiful in their bodies, seemed like a natural career choice.

Speaking to The Ditto Project and their mission to help breast cancer survivors feel comfortable in their bodies post-surgery really resonates with my initial reasons for launching Thursdays. Designing a bra that can give these women a sense of self pride, allowing them to recognise themselves in the mirror and feel beautiful in public spaces, is so meaningful. Our vocation is to help women see themselves through the kind and loving eyes of their best friend.

Thursdays is a proudly South African brand. Despite the decimation of the textile industry, especially felt in the underwear manufacturing sub-sector, Thursdays is committed to producing our products locally. Our designer has over 30 years of experience in ladies underwear construction and we outsource our production to a female sewing contractor who specialises in supportive intimate wear. We are proactively engaging with other local brands in our niche to collectively address industry challenges and grow the subsector as SMME’s.

The addition of mastectomy bras to our product portfolio not only enables us to give women the support they need to confidently wear their prosthetic and regain a sense of self, but we are optimistic that it will provide a regular flow of work that will enable us to continue to invest in skills development of female garment workers. We are looking forward to introducing a strong, proudly South African, alternative to the scarce variety of imported mastectomy bras currently available.

Thursdays is offering the mastectomy bras at a special, low-margin rate for Reach for Recovery because of the important work that they do helping state patients during their recovery period.  

Reach for Recovery and Dr Justus Apffelstaedt: Supporting patients in the breast cancer journey

 

Doctor Justus Apffelstaedt is collaborating with the national non-profit breast cancer support group Reach for Recovery to raise awareness and funds for their Ditto Project, which provides silicone prostheses to women with breast cancer in the Western Cape.

Reach for Recovery is a member of the international Reach to Recovery. Network/Program

Launched in 2011, the Ditto Project has provided a total of 5,024 silicone prostheses costing more than R3,1 million to women who could not afford one.

“Reach for Recovery and I share the same belief: that all women facing breast cancer must be treated with dignity, and have the same access to care, regardless of whether they can afford it,” says Dr Apffelstaedt.

According to Stephné Jacobs, Chairperson of Reach for Recovery, there has been a steady increase in the number of women needing silicone prostheses since 2011: from 475 in 2011 to 980 in 2017.

“The Ditto Project aims to help women recover their self-confidence, giving them access to high-quality silicone breast prostheses, also assisting them – through local branches of Reach for Recovery – to ensure they choose the correct shape and size for their body,” says Jacobs.

“Having a mastectomy leads to a tier of decision making regarding whether to have surgical reconstruction, wear an external breast prosthesis, or not wear anything at all to replace the amputated breast,” says Stephanie van Deventer, national manager of Reach for Recovery.

“External breast prosthesis may be the best option a woman has, especially if she cannot afford to, or chooses not to undergo reconstructive surgery. However, not all patients can afford the cost of a permanent prosthesis. The reality is that many breast cancer patients in South Africa cannot even afford a bra, let alone a breast prosthesis.”

Dr Apffelstaedt is endorsing the NGO in its fundraising campaign by donating all the money collected at any of the events that he speaks at to the Ditto Project in the Western Cape.

In addition, Dr Apffelstaedt is funding a collaborative awareness campaign to assist Reach for Recovery in highlighting the project and driving donations.

“Reach for Recovery wants to help these women who come from low income group to feel confident again after the traumatic diagnoses and surgery. We believe that a breast prosthesis is an important step in her recovery, especially to those women from communities where a there is still a stigma attached to a cancer diagnoses. A more natural appearance with a breast prosthesis, together with the emotional support that she can continue to receive from Reach for Recovery volunteers through support groups, will help her to return to her place of employment and continue to provide for her family”, says Dr Apffelstaedt.

“We are very happy to have Dr Apffelstaedt endorsing the Ditto Project. This new collaboration, based on similar beliefs, will strongly contribute to enhancing our project through the voice of an expert on breast health management,” concludes Jacobs.

INFORMATION TO DONATE TO TOWARD THE Mastectomy Bra project

Cape Peninsula banking details:

Standard Bank Mowbray

Account name: Reach for Recovery Cape Peninsula
Branch code: 024909
Account number: 075220636
Reference: Mastecbra

ABOUT US

Apffelstaedt, Hoosain & Associates is a multi-disciplinary Breast, Thyroid and Parathyroid centre offering comprehensive clinical, and appropriate imaging assessment services, for any breast, thyroid and parathyroid health and cancer-related matters.

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