Women's health

Breast cancer bras a no-go for Victoria's Secret

May 20, 2013 at 7:35 PM ET

Strapless, multi-way, demi, the “pushups of summer” – if you want a bra, Victoria’s Secret stocks it. Unless you’re a breast cancer survivor, that is, and looking for a pocketed bra capable of holding a prosthetic breast form.

Allan Maiden, the 28-year-old daughter of a breast cancer survivor, had hoped to change that and gathered 120,000 signatures last January asking that Victoria’s Secret start offering a “Survivor” line of mastectomy bras. But after several meetings and discussions, the company sent a "no-go" response to her on Monday.

“Through our research, we have learned that fitting and selling mastectomy bras ... in the right way ... a way that is beneficial to women is complicated and truly a science,” reads a statement released Monday by a Victoria’s Secret spokesperson. “As a result, we believe that the best way for us to make an impact for our customers is to continue funding cancer research.”

Maiden, who created the petition as a way to honor and support her mother, a 21-year breast cancer survivor, says she’s a “bit disappointed” at the decision but appreciates the fact that the lingerie maker took the petition seriously. Maiden and her 57-year-old mother were flown to Columbus, Ohio, where they met with people from parent company, Limited Brands, toured a cancer research facility the organization supports and walked representatives through a mastectomy bra shopping experience.

“I do think they took it very seriously and that was ultimately why they decided not to do it,” says Maiden. “If they were going to do it, they wanted to do it well and they didn’t think they would be capable of doing that.”

But Maiden says she’s not done fighting for her mother and other breast cancer survivors, arguing that there is still very much a need for accessible – and pretty – mastectomy bras for cancer survivors.

“One of the great things about doing this petition was learning about Nordstrom and their prosthesis program,” she says. “Mom and I went there and it was amazing. But Nordstrom has less than 200 stores. So I’ve sent emails to other department stores asking if they could implement similar programs. If Macy’s or Sears or JCPenney – stores with a larger reach – could do something similar, that would give women the accessibility and could really help with this problem.”

Maiden was moved to start the petition after seeing her mother, who lives in rural Virginia, struggle to find properly fitting bras, often ending up with “expensive and ugly” mastectomy bras via online outlets.

“I’ve seen my mother go through the pains of chemotherapy and mastectomy surgery,” she says. “A strong woman like her should be able to …go to a store in her local mall … and buy a beautiful bra like everyone else.”

Mindy Greenstein, a New York psycho-oncologist and breast cancer survivor, says this is a completely legitimate sentiment.

“This is not at all silly or superficial,” she says. “How you look to yourself and the world has an impact on how you cope. It’s not just an issue of wearing a pretty bra after mastectomy, it’s about wanting to feel as normal as you can feel.”

Greenstein says an important way we learn to cope is by feeling like part of the world, not isolated from the world. Unfortunately, there are myriad reminders after a mastectomy that you’re “different”.

“Everything reminds of us being different,” she says. “And nothing’s going to remind you more than driving five hours out of your way for a bra that doesn’t even look good.”

Diane Mapes is a frequent contributor at nbcnews.com and TODAY.com. She's also the author of "How to Date in a Post-Dating World" and writes the breast cancer blog, doublewhammied.com.

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