Women fighting breast cancer often find themselves mired in a whirlwind of doctors’ visits, chemotherapy sessions, and ongoing bouts of illness triggered by debilitating treatments. These treatments, such as chemotherapy, mastectomies, and radiation, only add to the litany of worries breast cancer survivors face.
However, two local Black women are partnering to launch a storefront designed to empower survivors and enhance their confidence.
In Spring 2018, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will welcome Cherry Blossom Intimates, a breast health facility and lingerie boutique, at the Woodmore Town Centre in Glenarden, Md. The store is the brainchild of Dr. Regina Hampton, one of the few dedicated breast surgeons in Prince George’s County. Jasmine Jones will manage the store as its chief executive officer.
“Dr. Hampton presented this idea to me on the day that we met. We were walking in the Susan G. Komen 5K together and I completely fell in love with her vision. It is especially important to me because I lost my grandmother to breast cancer. We were very close. I remember her shopping experience for post-mastectomy products. Her fittings were done in a medical supply store and behind a curtain. The prosthetics didn’t match her deep brown skin tone nor did they fit her active lifestyle,” Jones, a Howard alum and District native, said.
“Eventually, she stopped wearing prosthetics altogether. Dr. Hampton’s goal was to create a lingerie boutique that took great care to fit women’s post-mastectomy bodies and the concept has grown into so much more. I knew that I could contribute a fresh business perspective, but more importantly, I’m now able to add a personal touch because of my direct life experience. Losing my grandmother was one of the most difficult times of my life but I know that she’d be proud of the store and of the work that we are doing to help survivors,” Jones continued.
Hampton and Jones said they hope to fill a void for women of all ethnicities and sizes by offering chest wall graphs to emulate natural breast shape, custom-made prosthetics, shapewear, and lingerie that ranges from petite to plus-size and a full line of post-mastectomy products that match a broad range of complexions. Cherry Blossom Intimates will also provide in-house medical billing for clients who are unsure how to navigate the insurance process.
Hampton said her patients were the driving force behind her decision to open a storefront, as there is currently no boutique medical supply store in the metropolitan area. “They couldn’t go shop at a store like you and I could go to a regular store to get fitted. And they described experiences in an office-like setting or in a medical supply store where they were selling wheelchairs and canes and other supplies and there was a curtain where they get fitted by a fitter. And some of them were embarrassed,” Hampton, a breast cancer surgery specialist at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Md., told the AFRO. “Some don’t know that a lot of those products are covered by insurance, so in many stores if they sell the prosthesis they require the patient to pay up front and then the patient has to know how to submit the receipt to her insurance to get reimbursed.”
Although breast cancer cases are declining nationwide, the disease still tends to have the deadliest outcomes for Black women, according to a recent report from the American Cancer Society. In 2015, Black women suffering from breast cancer experienced death rates almost 40 percent higher than White women. Black women were also reportedly more likely to develop breast cancer before age 40 compared to women of other races.
Women in the Washington D.C. and surrounding areas may fare even worse, according to 2016 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). D.C. has the highest breast cancer and breast cancer mortality rates in the country. A 2016 District of Columbia Department of Health report showed breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the city, with Ward 8 – which is 92 percent Black – having the highest incidences. According to Dr. Hampton’s website, Maryland and Virginia suburbs also have higher-than-average breast cancer rates with portions of the population ineligible for state-based health assistance.
Jones said she wants Cherry Blossom Intimates to become a go-to destination for breast cancer survivors and all women in Prince George’s County and surrounding areas. “Survivors deserve to feel beautiful, feminine and should know that we truly care about them . . . We’re the place to pick up a mastectomy bra and a sexy pair of lace panties, or even beautiful shapewear and the perfect pair of nude hosiery,” Jones told the AFRO.