Jan Adams has been around breast cancer for most of her life. She helped her mother and other women in her family through treatment for years, but today she chooses to be around it. As one of the owners of About You, a mastectomy boutique in South Tampa, she has found a way to give women hope and support through one of the hardest times of their lives.
From the outside, the store looks like just another women's boutique and Adams says that is exactly the point.
"There's a need emotionally for customers to shop without feeling like they're in a medical, sad environment," she explains. "The store is a place where they can feel good and beautiful."
Most customers come in with a friend or family member. They're timid at first and, according to Adams, the first time they come out of the fitting room usually involves tears — both sad and happy ones — from acknowledging the situation they're in to also feeling empowered, seeing themselves in the mirror not as patients but survivors.
The boutique carries over 1,000 bras and prostheses for women who have undergone partial or double mastectomies, as well as plenty of other items to go with them. The goal is to make the customers' shopping trip enjoyable, not just functional.
Along with a wig ($100-$300) or silicon form (prices vary), women can also purchase a pocketed silk nightgown ($60), or a beach cover up ($79) and hat ($24) to match a pocketed swimsuit (prices vary).
Functional items are also given a fashionable spin. Lymphedema Sleeves, which many patients must wear while flying, come in fun patterns like leopard or pink polka dots ($80). A bag to carry silicon forms is shaped like a lace bralet ($20). And a seatbelt cover ($20), with pink details of course, protects scars while the patient is driving.
Adams and her business partner, Paul Williams, want every woman who walks in to feel a little more comfortable, and no one understands that feeling more than previous customers. That is why many of them donate gently used prostheses to the boutique, which the store then donates to customers who may not have insurance to cover the cost. It's all part of what Adams calls "healing the emotional scars" while other items in the store take care of the physical ones.