Post-mastectomy complications are far too common: nearly one out of every three patients will have a complication within two years, one in five will require additional surgery, and one in twenty will have reconstruction that completely fails.
When Leah Wyrick saw her mom deal with complications after breast cancer surgery, it inspired her to try to fix one of the major problems with it: inadequate recovery bras.
Nancy Wyrick was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in August of 2016. Leah was only 15 at the time. Nancy had a mastectomy as well as reconstruction, and Leah saw firsthand the complications that arose after reconstruction.
“It’s just amazing to see how many women develop these post-operative complications, that shouldn’t be developed,” Leah said.
In the midst of her mother’s cancer battle, Leah had to decide on her senior project. Wanting to help her mom and other women like her, she looked deeper into the recovery process after mastectomies.
She spoke with her mom’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Samuel Roy, and learned that the bras provided to women post-mastectomy are a bit of a nightmare.
They don’t fit well, can cause injury, and don’t have a place to store the drains that are in place after surgery.
“The bras I get at my hospital, I have to take a pair of scissors and cut them, because they’re cutting into the patients, and causing wounds,” Dr. Roy said. “Sometimes we’ll use safety pins to actually pin the drain bulb on the bra.”
When recovering from surgery and grappling with a cancer diagnosis, the last thing a woman wants is to wear uncomfortable clothing that can actually impede the recovery process.
“The bras are a little antiquated in the fact that they just really come in a small, medium, and large,” Nancy said.
“What I was wearing was pretty similar to a straight jacket. When I saw Leah’s bra for the first time, my first thought was, ‘That’s kind of pretty.’”
Leah and Dr. Roy worked together to create a post-surgical bra that would be helpful and convenient for breast cancer patients. It needed to be able to accommodate the tubing for the drains that were in place, be comfortable, and be adjustable.
Leah learned to sew and created a bra that met all the requirements her mom had been looking for, such as adjustable straps, a pouch for the drain bulb, and a spot for padding during recovery.
“If she would have been able to use our bra, she would have had less complications, and it would have been, in my opinion, and her opinion, it would have been an easier process for her,” Leah said.
Dr. Roy was thrilled with the prototype and said it was exactly what was need on the market.
From there, Leah continued pushing forward.
Now 19 and finished with her freshman year at Wake Forest University, Leah is majoring in pre-business, with a minor in entrepreneurship. She has a patent pending on her bra prototype and is looking for investment money to assist with research and manufacturing costs.
She named company called Three Strands Recovery Wear, inspired by a verse about strength in the bible, Ecclesiastes 4:12: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Learn more in this video.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.