Chicago boutique helping breast cancer patients with their post-mastectomy bodies

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Some studies suggest that 60% of women who undergo mastectomies opt not to have reconstructive surgery, and a Chicago boutique is dedicated to helping those women on their path forward.

Jen Parsio came to Second Act Cancer Recovery Boutique for a reason.

“This past February, I was diagnosed with a brand new tumor that was actually in my same breast as my initial breast cancer,” Parsio said.

The wife and mother from Portage Park has been battling breast cancer since 2015. After a new tumor was discovered, she underwent a mastectomy on her right side several months ago.

“Unfortunately, I was not a candidate for reconstruction due to some other underlying health issues,” Parsio said.

That’s why Parsio sought out Pattie Cagney Sheehan’s boutique at 2768 N. Lincoln Avenue. Sheehan is a mastectomy fitter, certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics.

“Well, it's not a sock in your bra. That's the first thing,” Sheehan said.

The boutique carries various types of prostheses, including a silicon prosthesis that is covered by most insurance companies.

There’s also a balance shaper, which is helpful to even out shaping for women who had a lumpectomy. In addition, there is a sport-style prosthesis that is made of mesh and is breathable and washable, which is good for exercise and swimming.

Parsio just picked up a black tankini bathing suit that she can now wear at the gym and on trips with her husband and two kids.

“They actually want, you know, like me to sit on the beach with them and do that kind of stuff. So now I can,” Parsio said.

In addition to the bathing suits, Sheehan also carries a wide array of tank tops and bras, made with special pockets.

“So whether it's a swimsuit or a tank top or a blouse, or a sports bra, or a strapless bra, they all have pockets and they all carry a prosthesis,” Sheehan said.

And many women may not realize that most insurance companies will cover specific types of prostheses and bras.

“A standard off the shelf prosthesis is covered by almost every insurance company. In fact, the Women's Health Care Act of 1999 said if you've had breast surgery, you have to be provided a prosthesis,” Sheehan said.

Women don’t have to be newly-diagnosed to qualify for a prosthesis. Sheehan said all insurance companies offer lifetime coverage of the standard silicone prosthesis, even if your surgery and treatment was years earlier.

There are also custom prostheses, which are only covered by some insurance companies, although Sheehan is working to change that.

“A woman's breast is the only body part for which Medicare does not provide a custom prosthesis and we are currently working on an act in Congress to get that changed,” Sheehan said.

Parsio says having access to a wide variety of bras and tank tops has truly helped her look and feel better.

“I had, you know, just something stuffed in my bra, nothing fit right. And I came in here and I just I was floored with the chant the choices that I had,” Parsio said.

Second Act Recovery Boutique is open by appointment only, Monday through Friday. You can find more information on their website.

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