This is among the stories in Think Pink, our upcoming special section about fighting breast cancer. Look for more in Sunday’s Herald.
One thing led to another.
First, Linda Barth was laid off from her job at Boeing.
So, she went to the community college for retraining and decided to take an oil painting class.
Then she went on the Everett Art Walk.
Citrine Health women’s wellness center was one of the stops on the map.
“I walked in the door and said, ‘What do you guys do here?’” Barth said. “They said, ‘We do mammograms and pap smears for people who don’t have insurance.’”
Barth, 61, of Stanwood, hadn’t had a mammogram in about 20 years, so she figured it was time.
The mammogram led to a breast ultrasound then a biopsy. Three days before Christmas in 2010, she got the cancer verdict.
“I was dead-on-the-floor shocked,” she said. “I’d been the healthiest person on earth ever.”
The tumor was Stage I.
“The doctor said, ‘It’s big enough to see and find. Small enough to remove. You couldn’t have had a mammogram at a better time,’” Barth said.
She had a lumpectomy, surgery in which only the tumor and some surrounding tissue were removed. After surgery, she had seven weeks of radiation and continues to take a breast cancer treatment drug.
“It’s really funny about having cancer,” Barth said. “People don’t talk to you about it. The last thing they want to ask you is, ‘Which one is it?’ or ‘How much boobage is left?’”
Only her bra fitter knows for sure.
“You can’t get any closer to anybody than your bra fitter,” Barth said.
She goes to The Bra Shop at Citrine Health, a nonprofit that also houses a women’s wellness center and a gift shop. Citrine opened The Bra Shop after moving to a new location in downtown Everett in June. The Bra Shop has a boutique look and feel to it.
“We really needed it to look inviting and modern and upscale,” Citrine director Kerri Mallams said. “We want people to want to come here.”
There are bras for all women, she said.
“It’s not only for women who have had breast cancer. We have bras for everybody, for all body sizes and shapes and also bras for women who are post-mastectomy.”
The shop saved the day for some women in a wedding party staying at the hotel across the street, who discovered at the last minute their bras didn’t fit right with their dresses.
The shop has bras that are lacy, sexy, sporty, big and small. Walk-ins are welcome.
“It’s good to make an appointment,” Mallams said. “It takes about an hour, a lot of times longer.”
The display area is bright and airy. By contrast, the private fitting room, where women are measured, is intimate with mood lighting. “It’s a relaxed environment,” Mallams said. “You want to be comfortable taking your shirt off.”
It’s more than crunching numbers.
“We take basic measurements and ask what needs are,” bra fitter Angie Fair said. “It is important to get a good fit so their natural breast and breast prosthetic are held correctly. Otherwise it might be hard to match their natural breast if they are wearing the wrong bra size. Especially after having surgeries, they might have lost or gained weight. They might have been wearing the wrong size of bra all their lives anyway. Women often wear the wrong size of bra. It becomes really important to get a good fit so their natural breast and breast prosthesis are held correctly.”
The shop stocks hundreds of gently used breast prosthetics, or forms, which fit into pocketed bras. “There are a lot of different shapes and sizes with a lot of variety in the technology,” Fair said. “A lot of times they build up heat, so they use cooling gel technology or climate-controlled backs.”
Retail can be $350 or more per prosthetic. Insurance carriers differ on what is covered.
“If women are able to make a donation for prosthetics and bras, that’s wonderful,” Fair said. “But if not, that is OK, too.”
Every woman is different.
As a lumpectomy patient, Barth said she maintained part of her breast.
“I didn’t have enough taken off for reconstruction. A bra makes it look like they’re supposed to. You want to be proportioned.”
She tried on at least 20 different bras before choosing a shiny red bra.
It fit more than her shape. She volunteers as late night radio deejay on Everett public radio station KSER (90.7 FM), using the name “The Lady in Red.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
Watch for more stories about fighting breast cancer in Think Pink, a special section inside the Sunday, Oct. 5, Herald and at HeraldNet.com.
The Bra Shop
The Bra Shop is in the Citrine Health building at 2940 W. Marine View Drive, Everett.
The Bra Shop serves all women who need bras, especially low-income women with Medicaid/DSHS health insurance. In partnership with the Washington Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program, the breast health program connects women to free or low-cost preventative health care services. Underinsured and uninsured women can receive yearly health exams that include cervical screening and mammograms throughout Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Pierce and Whatcom Counties. For more about the program, call 425-259-9899 or 888-651-8931.
The building houses a women’s wellness center with fitness classes, massage rooms, yoga and facials. There is a gift and art shop.
Hours are 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
There will be a grand opening from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15. Breast cancer survivors are invited to cut the ribbon at 5:30 p.m. To participate in the ribbon cutting call Debbie Rowe, 425-259-9899.
For more: www.citrinehealth.org.