After treatment for breast cancer, the outlook seemed bright for Anita Schimmel: she was cured. Unfortunately, she developed chronic edema (a build-up of fluid) in the chest. She’s not alone, but there was no suitable bra. She is now changing that herself: “I wish every woman more self-esteem.”
A few days after the 57-year-old Schimmel was declared ‘clean’, she was already running. If she had known what to expect, she would have left the running shoes on for a while. Months later, she suffered from extensive scar tissue and edema, which turned out to be chronic. “It is good to exercise the first year after your treatment. But then just walk for half an hour, and not immediately extreme in the gym,” says the entrepreneur.
Many women develop lymph or breast edema as a result of breast cancer treatment. In most of them, the edema disappears within a year. Chronic breast edema rates fluctuate between 8 and 38 percent, meaning that between 30,000 and 60,000 women are affected.
“Complaints include pain, a big difference in the size of the breasts and a tense skin. Schimmel calls it invisible suffering. ”
Complaints include pain, a large difference in the size of the breasts and a tense skin. Schimmel calls it invisible suffering. “It’s not talked about. You just accept it, you’re healed, aren’t you?”
In lymphedema, which is more common than breast edema, the arm or leg where the edema is located can be bandaged with a certain substance. “That is not possible with a breast patch. Yet my edema therapist gave a piece of cloth and said: try it.” Mold put it in her bra, and fuck her, her scar seemed to be getting softer.
From medical to charming
This is how the idea for La Bratelle was born, lingerie for women with breast edema. “What is there now looks very medical. And using a medical device while you are healed is no fun.”
A bra that fits well, soothes the pain and is also beautiful: that does something to your self-esteem. “I wish everyone that. I was 52 myself when I got sick, but thought: suppose I already had breast edema much younger. That you undress for your boyfriend for the first time and say: I have to put some bra parts away. You just want to be able to take your clothes off, don’t you? “
“An edema bra is the most difficult piece of clothing to make.”
Schimmel now understands that there is no edema bra yet. “I have been working on it 100 percent every day since October 1, 2020. It is the most difficult piece of clothing to make.” Another factor: the number of women with breast edema is relatively small. “If you also divide that by size, it is a very expensive thing.”
Not unnecessarily polluting the environment and no carcinogenic substances
With three other female entrepreneurs, all of whom have lost loved ones to cancer or have had it themselves, Schimmel took matters into their own hands. Together they run the Bratelle Foundation. With donations they hope to get the research and development done and then sell the lingerie for a reasonably normal price. In addition, affiliated retailers donate a percentage of the sale price to the foundation.
“When you have to deal with a disease, you start to think about the way you live.”
Textile agency LabeledBy has started with 3D printing. There are discussions with a large textile manufacturer for the production and Hellen van Rees makes the design.
Sustainability is central to the development of the bra. Schimmel: “When you have to deal with a disease, you start to think about the way you live. We do not want to be unnecessarily polluting for the environment, let alone use carcinogenic substances. The substance we are currently testing is made from recycled PET bottles.”