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Group to help breast cancer survivors with a 'warm embrace'

The number of women who opt for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy has skyrocketed 65 percent in the past five years, according to Newsweek. (WSMH)

The number of women who opt for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy has skyrocketed 65 percent in the past five years, according to Newsweek.

But as if having breast cancer wasn't difficult enough, one mid-Michigan woman is highlighting another obstacle many face with reconstructive surgery.

A group of current and former Central Michigan University students are working to give women, like breast cancer survivor Jodie Faber, a "warm embrace".

For Jodie, a bra serves as a constant reminder of her past.

"For a woman who had a double mastectomy... you don't feel the most feminine of feminine," she said.

Jodie said breast cancer touched her life countless times.

"My older brother developed breast cancer at the age of 50," she said.

Following his diagnosis, the bad news just kept on coming.

That is when she discovered she developed breast cancer herself in 2005 and then underwent a double mastectomy.

"Six months after that... my mother who was not positive for the gene was diagnosed with breast cancer as well," Jodie said. "Three out of the five in the family within a 6 month to a year period had all been diagnosed."

After Jodie's reconstructive surgery, she said she noticed something.

"I was cold all the time," she said. "It was really hard to get warm and I couldn't figure it out."

During her recovery, she soon realized her breasts were having difficulty generating heat post-surgery.

"After you had a mastectomy, you lost most of your blood supply, you have no tissue, no fat, nothing that will store the heat in your body in that area," she said.

From hot showers to hand warmers, Jodie tried one thing after another.

"I just want to feel normal," she said. "I just kept on saying that... I just want to have a normal bra that will keep the cold out."

Jodie said she took her problem to the innovations department at Spectrum Health where she works, who then connected her with some students at Central Michigan University.

This group of entrepreneurship and fashion merchandising majors got to work to find a solution to this problem.

It is a problem Jodie, along with so many others, deal with each and every day.

"We really decided that we wanted to make something that was beautiful and that made women feel good about themselves, feel comfortable again," team member Emily Austin said.

Four prototypes later, the girls are still working to find the perfect fit, using their "friend" Norman to test the bras.

They are testing materials to see what exactly with give Norman the warmest embrace.

"We can actually test the difference between his body temperature, the temperature within the chamber and how warm the implants will stay," one student said.

"We were able to keep the thermerster about 6 degrees warmer than without a thermal bra," team member Susanne Wroblewski said.

It's a difficult task, but Jodie said she couldn't be more thankful for the support... literally.

She hopes this encourages more women to speak up.

"Guaranteed if you don't say anything, if you don't bring it up, if you don't talk about it... nothing will happen," she said. "So what's the worst thing that can happen is that they could say no, but they didn't."

If you're interested in helping the students test their product, you can participate in their study.

However, you must meet the following requirements:

1) be between the ages of 40 and 70

2) have been diagnosed with breast cancer

3) had bilateral prosthetic reconstruction

The girls said they plan to launch their kick-starter campaign in February and look forward to the day where they can walk into a store and see their bras on display.

For more information, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.


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