Fran's Story: Beating Breast Cancer and Building a Better Mastectomy Bra

You know what they say about Valentine's day—it’s a great day to get a mammogram. At least that’s what Fran and Naomi thought as they made their way to their doctors office. However, a week later a call would come telling Fran that she had breast cancer for the second time. Bad news that was tempered only slightly by the knowledge that this cancer was unrelated to the first round of breast cancer she had fought just over 15 years ago.

Fran was told that her only real option was to have a complete mastectomy on her right side. With this news in hand Fran charged ahead. Never having been one to sit and wait for things to happen Fran decided to move forward with the mastectomy as soon as possible. She said “to me it didn’t feel like something to waffle over, just something to get done. The surgery didn’t really feel like a loss so much as cutting out some tissue and taking the bad stuff along with it.” Within two weeks her surgery was scheduled. She went into surgery on a Thursday and was back in the office the following Monday.

Fran and Naomi cheesing for the camera

Yet the process of having a mastectomy isn’t over once a patient leaves the hospital. Without a breast on one side the body can develop imbalances and muscle loss. Some people choose reconstruction to handle this issue, while many opt for a silicone prosthetic that they wear in a specialty bra. Fran was told during the pre-op process that there weren’t a lot of options on the market that were designed with the mastectomy community in mind. Something that she found to be true as soon as she started looking for a bra post-surgery.

Shopping at a department store for a bra to suit her needs Fran was inundated with lots of bras that were lacy or overtly feminine, but nothing that fit her style or aesthetic. Doubly troubling was that the bras she was trying on weren’t nearly as comfortable as the TomboyX bras that she had grown accustomed to wearing. To make the whole matter worse, once Fran had finally found a bra and handed it over to the department store to alter to fit a prosthetic she found the workmanship shoddy and the alterations quickly fell apart. Fran was disappointed that the main option for people shopping for a bra post-mastectomy was to take an existing bra, modify it, and hope that it worked okay. Fran said “I knew that when we created a bra for the mastectomy community I wanted us to make something that was specialty-made to fit their needs. I wanted people to have something that really worked, not just made-do with an existing product.”

Luckily for Fran and for all mastectomy patients, TomboyX has a habit of listening to their customers when they ask for something. While Fran struggled to find a bra that worked for her, TomboyX was already in the process of creating a bra that would be multi-functional, could accommodate pads, cookies, or prosthetics, and could be used by both the mastectomy and trans communities.

Fran stressed that comfort was a driving force when designing these bras. She wanted to ensure that TomboyX was not only offering their customers physical comfort through the product, but also the comfort of having a bra that fit their style and aesthetic. Having been so disappointed by what was currently available to the mastectomy community, Fran knew it was important for TomboyX to offer something specifically built for them and their needs. She didn’t want people to feel like they would have to make do with poorly-constructed department store bras for the rest of their lives. She wanted these people to have something that not only worked flawlessly, but was designed to help them feel like themselves. Like all TomboyX products these two new bras went through months of design and testing—including being test-worn by Fran herself—before they were dialed in and ready to be released to the public. This October, in conjunction with breast cancer awareness month, TomboyX will launch two bras with removable inserts, designed specifically to accommodate pads, prosthetics or breast forms.

Fran has been open about her battles with cancer and hopes that her story can destigmatize the conversation around breast cancer and let others know that they aren’t alone. She says “when I was young and growing up in the South, everything to do with women's anatomy was considered ‘female problems’ and nobody talked about it or gave it the same level of medical attention as other issues. That created a lot of internalized shame and silenced a lot of people. If my story can be part of moving these conversations into the light, then I’m happy to share. I want other people to see me living a happy and complete life and know that’s an option for them too.”

Fran smiles for the camera after catching a huge fish.