Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Empowering Cancer Recovery Boutique

Four years ago today, December 1, 2006, I was undergoing a 10-hour preventive double mastectomy with reconstruction. I am choosing this special anniversary to share a gem I recently discovered, a cancer recovery boutique for women undergoing cancer treatment, as well as long-term breast cancer survivors.

Second Act in Chicago, IL, is an amazing place. Downtown Chicago's only accredited cancer recovery boutique, Second Act offers post-breast surgery garments, such as specialty bras and prostheses, as well as a nice selection of wigs, hats, and scarves.

Customers complete an online Pre-Visit Registration Form and set up an appointment with Certified Mastectomy Fitter and shop owner Pattie Cagney Sheehan. Pattie spends ample time with each client in a private fitting room.

I'm focusing this posting on the bra experience because quality bra-fitting services for women who have had lumpectomies and/or mastectectomies are exceedingly rare. It is common for women who have gone through such trauma to have body image issues, which include feeling disfigured. To add insult to injury, these women often have a really difficult time finding a bra that will meet their unique post-surgical needs. 

So many undergarment retailers claim they know how to fit us in a proper bra, but they don't. To my horror, I have found some unsavory businesses who lie about their offerings. I've gone into bra specialty shops with great reputations, only to be asked "What's a mastectomy?" and "We can't help you here." It's a humbling, humiliating experience that has caused me to leave such shops in tears.

So imagine my pleasant surprise during my appointment with Pattie, someone who perfectly understood my needs exactly and worked tirelessly and in privacy during our one-hour appointment to find the perfect bra and prosthesis for my particular body. For the first time in a long time, I felt empowerment, nurtured, and felt a huge boost of self-esteem. And Pattie treats her clients with great respect and dignity.

And here's another great fact that many would-be clients may not know about. Second Act is under contract as an in-network provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and Aetna/Cofinity PPO programs. Most post-surgery items are covered by Medicare and/or private insurance for women recently diagnosed, as well as long-term survivors. A physician's prescription is required.

And I would be remiss if I didn't gush about the ambience of the waiting area of the shop. Located as a shop within Flourish Studios' shop, the atmosphere is serene, empowering, optimistic, and supportive. Friendly staff offer you free hot chocolate and hot tea in nice cups while you can sit on comfy chairs or couches (see photo below) and wait for your appointment. I felt so pampered!

The store has a variety of self-help, holistic-oriented books and is filled with beautiful gallery-displayed artwork, cards, jewelry, and crafts -- many of them with inspirational sayings -- and available for purchasing. (See photo below.) There's also a children's section with interesting and fun children's books and toys for purchasing.

If you are looking for a stellar cancer recovery boutique, please contact Pattie at or at 773-525-2228, and feel free to visit the company's website at

If you don't live in Chicago, you can also plan a vacation to this beautiful city and set up an appointment with Second Act. It is well-worth the trip.

Calm ambience in the waiting area
Please feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange subscribe button. I am a professional writer and have published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on my breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. I can be contacted at and


  1. Beth, sounds perfect and has me wondering if there is such a place in Australia. I will certainly do some research. I do know of such places that are general purpose rather than specific.
    I am feeling the effects of being unable to wear anmything other than a cotton undergarment because of the amount of lymph that has built up in my upper body. Neck, throat, chest, back and arm are all problematic. Unfortunately!

  2. Hi Chez,

    Thank you for your reply, and I'm sorry you have all that lymph in your upper body. There may be a place in Australia like this. I lucked into Second Act by accident, after years of looking for a shop that would meet my needs.

    It might be worth e-mailing Second Act to see if they are aware of any such shops in Australia. It could be worth a try.

  3. Beth, Thanks for this great information. You are lucky to have such a place nearby. It makes me wonder why more stores like this don't exist since there surely is a need. I did purchase the most teriffic post-mastectomy tank top last summer at a specialty med store. It has pockets for the drain tubes and is really stretchy, but holds everything firmly too. I love it and still sleep in it. So I know those specially made garments are gems.

  4. Hi Nancy,

    I'm so glad you found a great post-mastectomy tank top!! The right undergarment really makes a huge difference.

    I agree with you that there is such a need for quality cancer-recovery boutiques.

  5. great post, thanks for the valuable information.