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Gin Schaffer is a former higher education administrator and works part-time at MWHC's Regional Cancer Center as the Coordinator of Integrative Medicine. She lives in downtown Fredericksburg and enjoys walking and biking with her husband and 2 kids (especially if coffee is involved).

Pillow Talk

Two years ago I had the honor of being part of a special group of women that kicked-off Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the Today Show. I will always remember Hoda Kotb, a breast cancer survivor, coming out super early to meet us, with music in her little iPod boombox, reminding us to take care of ourselves. It was her pep talk that gave me the confidence to go on television and ask Joan Lunden, the host of the special program, about her self-care habits. This picture with Hoda came up on my "On This Day" timeline on Facebook. It was a day I will never forget and I feel fortunate to be celebrating 2 years of survivorship.

October is a perfect time to remind ourselves to take time for ourselves and our health. School schedules and impending holiday conversations about who's hosting Thanksgiving have a sneaky way of taking time away from our own health needs. 

Ask yourself the following questions as a gut check:

  1. Have you been to the dentist lately?
  2. Have you had your eyes checked?
  3. Have you had an annual physical?
  4. Do you do self-exams of your breasts regularly?
  5. Have you read the guidelines for when and why to get a mammogram?

My suggestions for what to do when you get a mammogram:

  1. Check out Six Ways to Make a Mammogram More Tolerable
  2. Close your eyes and think of a happy place; visualization is powerful. In my mind, I've been drinking margaritas on a beach during the whole exam.
  3. Treat yourself to a new bra - your tatas will love you for it!

After having children and then being in treatment, I got way too comfortable using sports bras and nursing bras as my regular bras. It's understandable why I did that, but really, that's not good for my girls and that's not the best confidence booster either. When I went out to shop for new bras, I learned many things about style and fit. I also gained confidence. Go out there and have some fun with it!

Some general suggestions for bra shopping:

  • Get your bra size measured whenever possible (our bodies are forever changing)
  • It's unlikely you have just 1 bra size (I came up with 4 depending on which store I was at)
  • ALWAYS try bras on
  • Prepare for a "trying to find that perfect pair of jeans" kind of experience
  • Hand-wash bras, have 6-8 well-fitted bras that you can rotate, and get rid of any bra 8 years or older
  • Consider bra colors and the outfits you regularly wear (a red bra will show under a white top)

Department stores are a great place for you to seek out a variety of brands that might work best for you (poll your friends on their favorites). And, sometimes there are bra specialists available. Nordstrom is my recommended store because of their commitment to customer service and their dediction to serving breast cancer survivors.

I visited Soma and was pleased to discover that I had been purchasing bras relatively close to the correct bra size.  Your band size may not be what you think it is because the band should sit at the small of your back, not as high as you think.  Also, your cup size may surprise you especially because breasts can be asymmetrical (mine certainly are now!)  I love that Soma has a front-closure bra offering and has wonderful, breathable sleepwear, Cool Nights, for those afflicted with hot flashes like me!

I don't want to take anything away from sports bras, there are some really good ones out there. The point is that your breasts shouldn't be in these types of bras all day, every day. I have found Athleta products to be really effective as well as the Ta-Ta Tamer II at Lululemon - you'll want to work out with this sucker on.

I have friends that really love Spanx. I like how they say, "bra-blems solved" on their website. You can find their products online and in many retail locations, but they also have stores for customized assistance (our closest stores are Tysons Corner and National Airport).

Then, there are the lingerie stores that I can't visit any more. We all have those stores that we love, but know we shouldn't shop at because the era has gone by. Check yourself before you buy a bra that is really for your 20-year-old self.

Last but certainly not least, I have to mention the premiere bra fit experts, Rigby & Peller (formerly Intimacy).  I made an appointment to go to this store and I'm really glad I did.  I liked the education I received, both about the bras and my breasts (these experts mean business, I mean, they talked about breast tissue).  It was an hour of therapy - helping me feel better about my body and the journey we've been on together.

Take care of yourself and encourage the women in your life to do the same. Here's to good health and support for the tatas!


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Pouches' Community Corner

Postpartum Support Virginia

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For new and expectant mothers in the Fredericksburg area, Postpartum Support Virginia stands as the help and support for women and their families who are experiencing postpartum depression. Founded in 2009 by Adrienne Griffen, Postpartum Support Virginia offers one-on-one support, free peer-led groups, a robust site of information including screening and diagnosis overviews, fact sheets, and training sessions.