matching sets

Even though I wear mismatched bra and knickers some of the time – pulling on the first of each that comes out of the drawer in the morning or aiming to wear a set and finding the other part is still in the laundry basket – there are times when unmatched underwear will simply not do. For me, there are three occasions when it has to be a matching set.

The gymn – It’s not that I parade around without my top layer of clothes, I’m more of a ‘get changed under a towel’ type. I don’t dry my hair in a thong at home so I certainly would do it in a changing room full of other people.  Perhaps I think that a glimpse of gorgeous bra and knickers will draw other women’s eye away from my shortage of nipples. They will notice the matching underwear rather than the unmatched boobs.

The hospital appointment –  I’ve not always worn matching sets to appointments. I always wore what my husband calls my ‘lucky pants’. After wearing the same pair for two consecutive appointments and getting rather better news than I was expecting, I became superstitious and could only enter the hospital grounds in my large cream and pink pants. I still have them in my drawer, neatly folded, just in case my luck runs out. My LPs saw me through two lots of surgery (although after one lengthy operation they were returned to me in a labelled bag like an overenthusiastic child’s first day at school); appointments to discuss a histology report; MRI and CT scans; each chemotherapy and the first and last radiotherapy. (Even I couldn’t wear them each day for three weeks – although I did think about it).

Perhaps it was a marker of my move from deep fear about an appointment to measured optimism which meant that I could enter the hospital in a different pair of pants. Now I dress to impress – it has to be a matching set. It’s not that anyone has ever asked to see my knickers during a breast examination, but you never know.

Lunch with anyone more attractive than me/The special night out – I could have the most expensive, gorgeous dress on and still feel scruffy if I didn’t have gorgeous, matching underwear on too. This time it’s not about dressing to impress, it’s dressing for me.  Beautiful matching bra and knickers makes me feel more confident, more attractive and walk taller.

And I thinks that’s the nub of it, wearing matching lingerie makes me feel more confident, like I’m striding out rather than lurking in the shadows. And I’m always safe in the knowledge that if I did have the misfortune to be knocked over by a bus then I wouldn’t be displaying my dingy grey knickers in A and E.

Non-wired bra, Freya Rosie non-wired bra in white

Freya Rosie soft cup matching set

Bra fitting after surgery – The importance of shared empathy

I had a lovely email from a customer yesterday – the sort that makes you smile and cry at the same time and confirms your faith and belief in what you are doing.

I saw her for a bra fitting two weeks after her surgery and two weeks before her prosthesis fitting. She said that I helped her over a difficult hurdle at a vulnerable time and it was made easier because I understood her experiences, “through a shared empathy.”

This got me thinking about how important this shared empathy is, especially for someone who’s had surgery for breast cancer. That’s why support groups are vital and I would challenge anyone who  thinks that four years down the line I shouldn’t still belong to one. Where else could you compare scars and discuss the merits of nipple reconstruction? I struggled, after my mastectomy, to feel a sense of belonging. I remember sitting amongst a group of women I had worked with for many years and feeling that I no longer had one thing in common with them. I was in a group of my own – the one-breast gang. Amongst other women who have had a similar experience I felt complete – one breast, two breast or no breasts, it didn’t matter.

Bra fitting after breast cancer surgery is way more than finding well-fitting underwear. It’s about talking;  listening; crying; self-esteem; hoping to feel good again; daring to show yourself half-naked to someone; getting angry.

A bra fitter needs to understand that you don’t want a lace bra if you’re about to have radiotherapy; that worry over your prosthesis slipping out is very real; that you don’t want a non-wired bra that makes you look like your mum; that the area under your arm will be sensitive if you’ve had lymph nodes removed; that some bras are more suited to a reconstructed breast; that if you’ve had a reconstruction you may have scars on your back; that you may have altered sensation and might not be able to stand a bra being too firm; that you really want a bra that looks like you had before; that you haven’t shown anyone else your scars since your surgery; that if you’ve had a reconstruction you don’t necessarily want a mastectomy bra, just a non-wired bra; that you’re worried that your wig will slip when you are asked to try on your tee shirt over your bra; that you’ll lose concentration or get really tired if you’re post chemotherapy treatment; that the hot flushes from the treatment and medication will mean you cannot stay in a small changing room for very long; that you’d like to be able to choose from a range of lovely lingerie, not just a white or black one; that even though you never thought about your underwear before, it has now become very important to your emotional recovery. You need someone who has walked in your shoes.

Shared empathy.

Non wired bras from softly softly

Beautiful non-wired bra by Royce, Darcy in damson and cream

Post-surgery bras for mastectomy, reconstruction, lumpectomy

Post surgery bras for mastectomy, reconstruction, lumpectomy from softly softly

The world of post-surgery bras can be a bewildering place and advice can be confusing. To make life more confusing sometimes pocketed mastectomy bras are called post-surgery bras. My definition is a  bra for immediately after your surgery. I have put together some features of what I think makes a good post-surgery bra.

It should be non wired so it doesn’t rub or irritate delicate scar tissue.

Front-fastening bras are really convenient in the time immediately after surgery and especially if you have limited mobility. If you are having lymph nodes removed you may have some restriction to your movements – I know from experience trying to do up a back fastener just after surgery isn’t easy.

Some bras have straps that can be adjusted at the front, again this is helpful if you have restricted movements. This is also helpful for examinations whilst you are in hospital.

The fabric should be soft against your skin and the seams should be minimal. If it has fewer seams it is less likely to irritate delicate skin and scar tissue.

The band underneath should be soft, stretchy and fairly wide.

The bra should be deep at the front to cover and support the breasts.

Many have double layered cups for support and some have pockets to hold a ‘softie’ if you have had a mastectomy.

Front fastening post surgery bras are particularly suitable for you if you are having a reconstruction. Comfort is vital when you have to wear a bra night and day for several weeks.

If you are having a lumpectomy you may not need a post surgery bra, although you may prefer one. A soft, well-fitting, non wired bra could be an alternative.

Talk to your breast care nurse about the about of dressings and swelling you are likely to have. It can sometimes be more comfortable to have a band size bigger.

You can view softly softly’s post surgery bras suitable for mastectomy, reconstruction or lumpectomy here and phone us on 01480 889682 or email me, for advice.

What a wonderful world

It didn’t take long to think of the song we wanted to hear after the ceremony at our wedding in September.  ‘Wonderful World’ evokes special childhood memories as Louis Armstrong was a favourite of my dads.  Hearing the song meant he was there, even though he wasn’t.

But the song has even more meaning for me now. There’s nothing like being visited by the cancer demons to make you question your existence, it certainly did me. But coming through the other side of treatment gave me a heightened love and appreciation of the world.

My top wonderful world moments for me today have been:

1. Being brought tea in bed by a lovely, lovely man.

2. Seeing the snowdrops in a neighbour’s garden, delicate little things which appear at what seems like such an inconvenient time. They survive to reappear year after year, with such resilience and fortitude, an inspiration for us all.

3. Being called darling and given a beaming smile by a stranger in the street when I moved aside to let him pass.

4. Walking past the village green and seeing the early blossom on the trees. The absolute beauty brought a lump to my throat. Each Spring the sight of blossom moves me and fills me with hope for the future.  For a long time after my diagnosis,  I couldn’t envisage being around for the next Spring. And so now for each passing season I am grateful.

I will never stop being glad to be alive and so, so thankful to be living my amazing, wonderful life.

And I said to myself “What a Wonderful World”.

Breast Cancer and Peer Support

I was at a women’s cancer support group meeting recently and was talking to someone who was going through chemotherapy. When I told her I was three years down the line she raised her eyebrows and said, “what, and you still come here?” It made me wonder. What was I or anyone else getting out of me being there?

There is no doubt of the value of peer support but is there a time limit on its relevance?

Personally I think a good cancer support group will be attended by people at all stages of their voyage through the world of cancer. The newly diagnosed can see that there is life at the end (and even during) treatment. That people come through the other side;  hair grows back; sense of humour returns and concentration span expands once more. The old hands have the opportunity to talk together about issues which concern them – no longer chemotherapy sickness and how to deal with the loss of your eyebrows,  but loss of confidence, continuing fatigue….and fear. Fear of recurrence, of new primaries and metastases.

My fear isn’t the same as it was. I once wore it like a pair of diving boots, anchoring me to a place I didn’t want to be, unable to move forward and dragging me down into the depths. Now it’s more like a pair of slippers with which I am comfortable, so comfortable that for brief moments I forget I’m wearing them. In them I can walk and run and even dance. Although I would probably rather be wearing something else more stylish.

To be able to talk about the whole cancer experience is very important, even though many who haven’t been through it that think it should be in the past. It’s never in the past. And to be able to talk to someone who understands this and has my shared experiences is vital. Hence the importance of support groups.

I have made such good friends and we talk frequently and openly about cancer. We laugh, make inappropriate jokes, cry, hug and share our thoughts, worries and dreams. I can’t imagine a time when this is not important to me.

Post surgery bras – which bra should you choose after your augmentation or reduction?

When looking for a bra to wear immediately after your breast surgery, comfort has to be the number one priority. This may be the only bra that you wear in the early weeks and you may need to wear it night and day.
  • It should be non wired; wires may dig into delicate scar tissue.
  • The fabric should be soft. Some have high cotton content, others with stretchy man-made fabric.
  • Front- fastening bras are easier to get on and off , especially important if you have restricted movements.
  • Many have double layered cups for extra support.
  • A soft band underneath will gently support you.
  • The fewer seams it has the less likely it has of irritating sensitive, delicate skin and scar tissue.
  • Some have straps which can be adjusted at the front,  good for restricted movements and can ease discomfort in the shoulders.

    post surgery-bra, softly softly

    post surgery bra from softly softly



My non-wired, mastectomy and post-surgery lingerie website is one year old

What a difference a year makes.  In the last 365 days I have acquired a lovely husband, several new friends (one of whom I feel I have known forever already) and a new job with its own website. From teacher, dipping her toe into entrepreneurship  to full-time business woman. This change of direction was not on my list of things to do when I reached fifty. But then neither was have treatment and surgery for breast cancer.

I began my new working  life with a Cath Kidston business card holder and a laptop. I had  enthusiasm in abundance and a passion to make bra buying after surgery as good an experience as it could be. I had people skills developed over my years of teaching and my recent experience of volunteering at the cancer centre that I had received wonderful support at two years earlier. But what did I know about running a business? Looking back probably more than I thought.  A year later, with advice and support gained from anyone who was kind enough to give me some, and a husband who worked extra hours to support us, I am now indeed running a business. 

The skills I’ve gained were ones I never thought I’d need. From filing VAT returns to tweeting.  SEO to networking.  Learning new skills has been exciting, fun,  frustrating, exasperating and scarey. I am indepted to everyone who has pointed me in the right direction and reminded me that I could do things that I thought I couldn’t. I still have a lot to learn but for what I’ve achieved so far, I have to say albeit  immodestly, I am rather proud of myself.

So Happy Birthday softly softly website . May you grow, evolve and continue to blossom.

Post-mastectomy lingerie for Valentine’s Day

How many men will buy their ladies lingerie for Valentine’s Day?

Now, how many men whose other halves have had a mastectomy will buy them lingerie for Valentine’s Day? Hmm, probably not many.

 It’s not surprising that at a time when lingerie departments are full to bursting with tichy bits of underwired lace that it can be a very depressing time for those of us whose underwear drawer has no room for such frivolities any longer. It was not long after my mastectomy that I was shopping in a large supermarket. Catching sight of their Valentine’s Day lingerie display I was at first uplifted (pardon the pun) by the sign saying that they would donate  a percentage to one of the large breast cancer charities from each bra sold. However, when I went to look at the lingerie I was outraged. The bras were skimpy, lacey and underwired – not a thought given to those they professed to helping but would not be able to wear them.   “You might not be able to wear these”, it screamed  “but all our double-breasted customers that are bought them will donate money to your cause”.  How patronising. How insensitive.

There is no reason why women who have had surgery for breast cancer should not want beautiful lingerie for Valentine’s Day. It can be even more important than before, we no longer take our bras for granted.  Pretty and comfortable lingerie make us feel better.

There are beautiful lingerie sets which are pocketed or non-wired. There is no excuse.


Halle bra and french knickers

Pink and black lace mastectomy bra and french knickers

Anita cream or black non wired bra from softly softly

Cream or black lace bra from softly softly

Happy Anniversary

As I write this blog, I am in reflective mood.

It is three years ago this week since my mastectomy and reconstruction; three years since I began my journey from having active cancer to being in remission. Because of the many changes to my life since my breast cancer diagnosis: new house in a new area, new career, new friends and most importantly, new husband and new name, the whole business seems like a lifetime ago. But, on the other hand I can remember parts of the day of my surgery so clearly it’s like it was last week.

An alarm clock set for 5.30 gave the a holiday feel, although the packed bag contained little that would be any use for a week in Italy. Arriving at the hospital was a surreal experience – the rest of the world was going about its normal business whilst we were entering another world. After the cosy, padded routine of chemotherapy, I felt like I had stepped into bright lights – the spotlight of surgery.

The waiting room had a ‘death row’ feel about it. No conversation; no eye contact;  just a nervous un-zipping of bags to make sure slippers hadn’t been left behind.

After being booked in, I bade a sad goodby to my clothes for a while and put on a very attractive flapping gown and even more attractive white socks. What a relief to meet Mr Smiling Australian the anaesthetist with a matter of fact manner – I was confident that he wouldn’t let me wake up halfway through my operation. When I asked him where I was on the list he told me ‘first…….and last’. I realised – this was huge. His was the last voice I heard before I went under, we had a conversation about perfect holidays. Most of the conversation was probably a little one-sided.

The first voice I heard as I woke up was Ms Bossy Nurse, berating me for not pressing my morphine pump often enough. Drifting in and out of consciousness, it was not easy to judge periods of 15 minutes. A fact I did try to explain but possibly unsuccessfully.

Coming back to the ward, Andrew and Hannah were waiting, anxious – I didn’t realise until later how long I had been in recovery. I remember feeling that whatever happens I have people in my life who love me and that life is precious. Those feelings continue to inspire and sustain me.

I am blessed.

Five good reasons to wear a non-wired bra

non-wired bras, wirefree bras,

non-wired bras don't have to be boring

Some of you will never have worn a non-wired bra and others may have stopped wearing them when your mothers no longer bought your clothes for you. There are however, some good reasons why going wire-free could be a wise move.

1.  They are just  more comfortable. No wires to dig in or poke out.  I know that if you have a well fitted wired bra the wires will sit correctly and shouldn’t cause discomfort but when you think that 80% of us don’t wear the right size or fit then that’s an awful lot of rubbing and jabbing.

2. Cuts down on washing machine repair bills. We know we should hand wash our wired bras but it’s just too tempting to bung them in the washing machine and hope for the best.

3. Reduces the time spent going through security at the airport. How annoying is it to remove your shoes, jewellery, belt etc and still set off the detector because of the wires in your bra.

4. I love this one.  I met someones whose friend took off her wired  bra when it thundered in case she got struck by lightning. So non-wired bras – perfect to wear during a storm!

5. Even if you are a diehard under-wired wearer there are times in a woman’s life when a non-wired bra is advisable: as a teen when breast tissue is developing; when pregnant or breastfeeding, to support a changing shape; after breast surgery, when wires could aggravate sore breast tissue; during exercise or sport.