Melissa’s Story: Turning Personal Challenge into Purpose
The day in September 2012 that Melissa Wyatt was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, she had just learned her second cousin passed away from cancer, and would soon be given the news her Aunt Becky lost her own courageous battle with metastatic breast cancer. It was one of the most devastating times of her life.
Stage II breast cancer is defined as being contained in the breast or growth has extended to the nearby lymph nodes. Although patients at this stage require more aggressive treatment measures than the recommendations for Stage 1, Stage II breast cancer usually responds well to treatment. - National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (nationalbreastcancer.org)
Becky’s daughter, Kristen Airhart, founder of Barola, Inc., and Melissa’s first cousin asked her to be part of a project to create a mastectomy bra as tribute to her mom, and to honor all women confronted with the challenging disease. Without hesitation, Melissa jumped at the chance to become part of the Bra for Life design process, while undergoing her own treatment. The project helped Melissa stay positive and to proactively confront her health challenges as part of her own journey.
Melissa worked closely with Kristen, sharing what she liked and disliked about the bra, and in particular how her prosthetic fit with the bra’s design. Soon two front-closure prototypes were created: one with a zip front, and another with a hook and eye. Melissa personally found the hook and eye to provide the most comfort due to her fluctuating breast size as a result of weight gain from chemotherapy. She also preferred to use Modal fabric as the lining. Modal is organic fabric Made in the USA which is antimicrobial, moisture wicking that has a cool and soft touch which is important for women who are undergoing radiation. “The bra stretched and conformed to my body shape really well, allowing my prosthetic to stay in place at all times.” This bra is now known as the “Melissa.”
A Perfect Fit
After a bilateral mastectomy, Melissa found her Barola bra to be a perfect fit with its soft, stretchable material that did not irritate her underarm area which became tender after lymph node removal. The Melissa bra has a band that adjusts the entire width of the bra and has adjustable straps with a soft velcro closure, giving women form sizes 2-2x a sleek, beautiful, and supported fit.
“I find the fit to be fabulous, and there isn't one thing that I could think of to improve this bra. It's so comfortable I almost don't want to take it off,” states Melissa. On her Barola wishlist is a cami top made from the same moisture wicking material as an addition to the current product line.
Barola bras are manufactured in the USA, and specifically benefit women who have undergone breast-related surgical procedures, been impacted by breast cancer, mobility issues, asymmetry, or who are pregnant or nursing. Barola’s Bra for Life is suited to the fitness-minded woman looking for the right support to complement her active lifestyle in the effort to maintain optimal health.
Bra for Life
Getting regular exercise is important for breast cancer survivors’ continued health. Physical activity can help lessen certain side effects of treatment, such as fatigue and depression, and has been shown to reduce risk of recurrence and improve survival.
As a full-time paralegal and a busy mom to a teenager, Melissa is always on the go, but maintains her fitness routine outside the gym by walking a few times a week. Barola has given me the ability to exercise without discomfort, and knowing Kristen personally, has shown me that true passion and vision can pave the way to empower women who are undergoing health and body challenges.
“I absolutely love both of the bras –– they can be worn by women from many walks of life –– whether you're nursing a baby, working out, or wearing a prosthetic or expander, this bra truly is a bra for life. And when you factor in the fabric quality and design of the bra, you truly get what you pay for.” When asked what words of wisdom she gives to other breast cancer survivors, Melissa says, “Stay positive.” I truly believe that a positive mind can get you through anything.”