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May 6, 2006 02:24PM
Hi, Kimmy and Pat,
Ah, yes, the Juzo bra. Do you have a secret for getting it on by yourself, Kimmy? I always have to have help. Since you adjust it yourself every time with velcro, it doesn't actually have a measureable compression ratio. And as you point out, with one breast remaining it won't really compress well across the other side. (Here's a bit of trivia you can throw around to impress your fitters, therapists, and insurance chimpanzees: when a compression garment gets hung up on something like a boob and doesn't lie flat on the surface it's supposed to compress, that is officially called "bridging." There, now aren't you glad you tuned in this afternoon?!) So, are you wearing your falsie against your skin, or between the two layers? I'm bilat and used two of those tough fiber-filled jobbers between the layers, and it looked fairly decent. In front, of course, not in back where all that velcro is piled on top of itself in huge sheets. SO -- when I wear that thing (which is only between washings of my Solaris vest) I go for a roomy shirt with a vest over it. The vest works really well to camoflage "the hump."
Options: definitely talk to Barbara at Women'sPersonalHealth about bras that might work. They don't work for me, because every bra ever made cuts right across the most sensitive LE area in front of my axilla and also does not come up high enough under my arm to keep the swelling in check. Which means it gets very painful.
The Bellisse definitely gets mixed reviews. Not too well mixed, either, since most of the women I've talked to about them hate them, and two fitters in my area who stocked them for a while have stopped dealing with them (this has to do with both a low level of customer satisfaction and an exorbitant re-stocking fee). The fabric is way wonderful, but they smoosh real breasts into a look that can best be described as smuggling rounded loaves of bread, and if you have two real breasts they get smooshed into one giant loaf. In all fairness, though, I've talked to women who love them, too, so don't listen to me!
Another option is a compression vest which, as you may well imagine, is not a thing of surpassing comfort. Jobst makes them, and so does Bio-concepts. Do you know what a burn garment is? These are like that. They're made of regular compression fabric, extremely well fitted to whatever: both breasts, a single breast, no breasts. With one of these your natural breast will stand out on its own, no smooshing, and you can then wear a bra and prosthesis for the other side. (Unless the bra strap aggravates your LE like mine does, that is -- in that case there's not a whole lot you can do. Loose shirts, layers, vests and scarves -- this did not work well for me here in the desert, even in the winter...) So, to get one of these you see a fitter, who custom orders your vest. You can get it waist length (which is recommended, especially if you have swelling down your side or back) or a bit shorter (which is what I have, to fight the heat), short sleeves, cap sleeves, or sleeveless. With Bio-Con you can get the vest to match or contrast with your sleeve and glove. They fit wonderfully, they control the swelling, but because I'm small, the compression made it hard for me to breathe. Which is not very nice.
What I wear now is a prototype Solaris day vest, the only one they've ever made. Unfortunately for the entire LE world, their designer left for another job somewhere. For all I know it's with Cirque du Soleil. So I've been assigned a new designer who's in the process of making me a second vest, this one with a bra-like prosthesis deal on the outside, made out of honest-to-goodness lingerie fabric like real ladies wear. This vest is made like a night vest or sleeve (stuffed with foam chips) only thinner. It does not look very "natural" under clothes and it's hot, but it can be refrigerated at night for a cool start in the morning, and if they ever get my second one made I can even trade them off during the day. It does not feel natural when people hug me, either, and I've been told by surprised friends that it feels like I'm dressed in bubble-wrap. On the other hand, compared to everything else it's wildly comfortable, I can breathe and move, it controls the swelling to perfection, and I don't hurt anymore. My cardiologist is especially happy with it because I can breathe again, and he seems to think that's important. I asked the Solaris people if they could design one for someone with one breast and they said yes, but again, we'd be looking at the smoosh effect.
Pat, what's the model number of the bra I sent you? The fitter calls it her "magic LE bra" because it works so well for her patients with breast LE. Kimmy, if you discover something wonderful do come let us know, yes?