First Bra Foundation
Above and from left: First Bra Foundation Founders Clair Keizer and Terry Levine.
“The First Bra mission is straightforward: Provide the breast cancer survivor with her first bra after surgery or treatment.” – Clair Keizer and Terry Levine.
by Kim “Kimmay” Caldwell
A few days before Mother’s Day in 2014, Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer. She quickly underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. The procedures changed several aspects of her life forever, including how she wears and shops for lingerie.
Emily, like many survivors, was at a loss when it came to shopping for bras after surgery.
“I never bought a ‘real’ bra after reconstruction,” said Emily. “I wore a lot of sports bras because my other bras were uncomfortable or didn’t fit right.”
That’s why Emily was pleased to hear about the First Bra program.
As a First Bra participant, Emily was treated to one-on-one attention and undergarment information at a boutique where she found a brand new bra.
“I got a pink underwire gingham patterned bra with little daisies on the straps. I have never had anything like it before. I can wear it for several hours a day without ever feeling like I need to take it off,” she gushed.
That shopping experience allowed Emily to step out of her comfort zone to try something that helped her feel feminine and fun – without sacrificing comfort.
And the best part?
Because she was there with the First Bra program, Emily was able to take the bra home for free.
“First Bra presents an incredible partnership opportunity for Anita and provides another way for us to express our commitment to the breast cancer survivor community.” Joy Haizen, Anita.
The shop providing this special service is the Kansas City, MO based lingerie boutique, Clair de Lune.
For over 12 years, Terry Levine and Clair Keizer have been fitting women for bras, including those with breast cancer. On September 2014, they took that level of support a step further when they founded FirstBra.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving breast cancer survivors a new bra along with an expert bra fitting.
How the First Bra Foundation Works
According to Terry and Clair, “The First Bra mission is straightforward: Provide the breast cancer survivor with her first bra after surgery or treatment.”
The process and qualifications are just as simple. “Aside from being a breast cancer survivor, there are no other conditions for her to qualify,” says Clair.
Potential recipients make a request for a voucher on the FirstBra.org website, schedule an appointment for a bra fitting, and select the bra of her choice. And while the First Bra goal is to help women with their “first bra” after surgery, they extend the service for an indefinite amount of time.
“The voucher never expires, so that she may redeem it when she is ready, physically and emotionally,” they say. “For some women it is their actual first bra after surgery. Some are coming in a few years after surgery and are getting something fun and sexy. And for some it’s 20 years after her diagnosis and she just now found out about this great opportunity.”
For Emily, it was indeed her first bra. But for her, it was, “about more than just getting a bra. Not only is it comfortable, but it makes me feel like a woman again at a time when I have experienced so much loss,” she said. “Who knew a bra could mean so much?”
Johnnie, another First Bra recipient, said she was, “ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED when I was told I would be gifted with my first bra. I could not believe it!”
And though the Anita bra Johnnie chose was not her first post surgery bra, she claims it was the best fitted bra, and best experience.
“I love the wide shoulder straps, the lift and support of my breast, and the comfort of the bra. It also is a warming and humbling experience just to know that a business cares that much about it’s customers to give them a wonderful bra.”
Anita, a brand that provides a wide range of post surgical and pocketed bras is one of two brand partners on the project. The UK based D+ cup company, Panache, is the other.
As participating brands, they have agreed to donate product on a replenishment basis. If a First Bra recipient chooses a bra from their brand in the shop, Panache or Anita will replace that item to the retailer at no cost.
“First Bra presents an incredible partnership opportunity for Anita and provides another way for us to express our commitment to the breast cancer survivor community.” said Joy Haizen, Managing Director for Anita International.
In addition, hospital groups in the Kansas City and St. Louis area are integral in spreading the word. Now, the First Bra team are focused on growing.
The next step is to partner with fellow retail stores, who can provide the vital in-person fitting experience along with the complimentary bra.
“For First Bra to do its work with its intended purpose, it needs to be implemented locally. Thus, we have been trying to reach out to other specialty store owners to inform them of what First Bra has accomplished during its brief existence and recruit their participation.”
As the founders of the project, Clair and Terry are spearheading the administrative tasks and behind the scenes work.
Participating retailers would act as the fitters and shops on the ground floor, supporting women and spreading the world.
“Getting a bra is a milestone experience in the whole breast cancer journey. Some women are looking forward to and some are possibly dreading it. Our goal is to make the process easier for the survivor,” explains Terry. And with the First Bra initiative, they’re making it a little easier one bra at a time.
Emily agrees, “Now, when I look in the mirror and I’m wearing my beautiful new bra, for a moment at least, I forget about my scars, all the pain and loss, and I see the woman I used to be.”
Get Involved with the First Bra Foundation
If you or your retail shop, brand, or health care organization is interested in partnering with Clair de Lune, you can contact the First Bra office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit: firstbra.org for more information and background.