Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Finding the Perfect Breast Forms—One Woman's Saga

When I had my bilateral mastectomy in October, 2006, I lost two breasts. In their place, I've acquired way more than two breast forms. I didn't think it would be this way. When I decided not to have reconstruction, I expected to easily find the perfect pair of replacement breasts and that would be that. Instead, it's been a process of trial and error. Even if you don't share my body type or you had only one breast removed, I hope my story will hearten you in your own search for the perfect breast form.

Before my surgery, I decided that if I ever deserved to splurge, now was the time. I knew insurance would cover my first pair of silicone forms, but I'd also heard about some non-silicone forms and I wanted to try them. I ordered a pair of Amoena Leisure Forms (Style 126) from an online website. They were inexpensive, at least compared to silicone. I ordered them in a size 4, which turned out to be a good fit for me (I later found that in certain bras, a size 3 works better). In addition, I ordered a pair of Still You Illusions, also relatively inexpensive. The size Bs that arrived looked gigantic—too wide for my frame and more like a D cup on me. I was able to exchange them for size As, which fit well. Both the Leisure Form and the Illusions can be worn in regular unpocketed bras, a real plus.

My first pair of silicone forms were Amoena Climate forms, in a size 2. When I was fitted with them, four weeks after surgery, they seemed huge, perhaps because I'd gotten used to being flat. But not long after the thirty-day period during which I could have exchanged them expired, I realized they were definitely too small.

I visited another fitter who persuaded me that Nearly Me Lite Tapered Triangle forms in a size 3 were the way to go. Going from a size 2 to a size 3 doesn't sound like much of a change, but Nearly Me forms run big and were equivalent to size 4 Amoena or ABC forms. So I went from tiny to va va voom. My husband thought they looked great, but unfortunately the forms felt heavy on my small frame. I wore them for evenings out but otherwise mostly wore my Leisure Forms, which I could put in a regular bra or a Still You pocketed Tank Top.

The Leisure Forms worked fine, but didn't feel natural, like silicone. I was disappointed that I still hadn't found the perfect form. Most fitters carry only a small selection of the many available forms, so I hadn't even had a chance to try on most of the options I'd seen for sale online. I wanted to try them all! I'm normally not much of a shopper, so this compulsion to shop for breast forms was something new. But, having paid out of pocket for the Nearly Me forms, I felt I had to restrain my shopping impulse, at least for a while.

Then one day I came across a website that sold an Airway form, the Tritex Triangular, which was made of silicone but had a microfiber backing (Airway has since been purchased by Anita and this form is hard to get in the U.S.). This seemed like the perfection I was looking for—combining the natural feel of silicone with the comfort of fabric against my skin. I located a fitter who carried Airway and went to try the forms on.

I loved them! I could wear them in a regular unpocketed bra. The microfiber felt soft against my skin and the silicone real to the touch. My husband, who by now wished I would stop discussing breast forms, hoped that these would make me happy. So, I bought them in a size 2 (these forms run large and are equivalent to a size 3 Amoena or ABC form). They are wonderful breast forms—almost perfect. They do have to air dry, due to the microfiber back, so that takes a little extra time, but they're comfortable, don't make my chest perspire, and pass the hug test with flying colors.

You'd think that I would have stopped there, and I did for a while. But when I was again eligible to purchase a new pair of forms with my insurance, I couldn't resist. This time, I decided to get the Airway Tritex forms in a size 3, to get back a little of the va va voom. Unfortunately, after wearing them for a while, I realized they were too heavy for me (the Airway size 3s are equivalent to large size 4s in Amoena and ABC) and were causing me to have backaches. No amount of projection was worth that. They were soon relegated to the back of my closet, along with the Nearly Me Tapered Triangles. I feel guilty about wearing them so little, but have saved them for those occasions when I want to look well-endowed for a few hours.

I also experimented with Pals gel forms, an alternative to silicone that can be worn directly against the skin. They're much less expensive than silicone, only about $50 per pair. As so often happens, the first pair I ordered online was too big, but a second pair (which was customized for an additional $10) fit beautifully. I've found the Pals to be great backup forms and fun to wear in regular bras, but they don't prevent my chest from perspiring, so for me they're not ideal. For some women, who don't have that problem, they might just be the perfect form.

The next time I was insurance eligible, I opted for Amoena Climate forms in a size 3, a much better fit than my original size 2s, which I had long since given away. Around this time, I also discovered a new company, Silique, which makes the Comfort-Lite, an ultra-lightweight form with silicone in the front and polyurethane beads covered by microfiber in the back. The company offered to let me try a pair for review on BreastFree.org. I loved the forms and ultimately purchased them.

The Silique Comfort-Lite forms really are the best forms I've found so far. At only three ounces each for my size 3s, they could hardly be lighter. My previous favorite forms, the size 2 Airway Tritex Triangulars, feel heavy by comparison. I can wear the Comfort-Lites in an unstructured Crop Top bra by Barely There. With that combo, I barely know I have anything on. The Comfort-Lites work in almost all my other pocketed and unpocketed bras, too. And they're so soft and cool that I was able to wear them comfortably all day in the hot, sticky Florida Everglades. Like the Tritex Triangles, they take longer to dry than all-silicone forms, but a blow dryer set on cool setting can speed that process along.

So, are the Silique Comfort-Lites perfect? Well, I guess the bottom line is that they're not my breasts, so they'll never seem quite as good as the real thing. But they're a fabulous substitute. So much so that I wear them almost all the time now. I haven't gone form shopping in quite a while, much to my husband's delight. But, if something new comes along, I'll be first in line to give it a try. And sometimes, no matter how much I love my breast forms, I'm tempted to go flat altogether. But that's a subject for another blog.

9 comments:

  1. Hello, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience. I'm having surgery next week and your site has provided me with information and comfort that I'm not alone and most importantly, life goes on. ;)

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  2. Thank you so much, Barbara, for your blog and your site! After a 2nd opinion with a plastic surgeon, it's clear to me that if I do reconstruction (which is getting to be a bigger and bigger if), it won't be for some time. So, I've decided to get as comfortable as I can with a breast form. (I have one natural breast, so I need a form to balance out.)
    This posting was especially helpful. My Amoena Natura Light 1S, size 5 looks and feels good, but at 9oz, still feels heavy for everyday. Through your post, I felt empowered to go out there and see if I could find a form that suited me better. The boutique I went to didn't carry the Silique, but I did get the Anita Equitex 1057X size L which is only 6 oz -- a 50% difference, and I can really tell. This one is silicon in the front and a puff pocket in the back. I loved it in the dressing room, and I have high hopes that this will be the one for me. Thanks again for your site!

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  3. I've been curious about the Equitex. I really hope it works for you. After you've tried it for a while, I'd love to get your feedback, either here or via email to me at breastfree@gmail.com.

    Barbara

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  4. I've used the Equitex for a little while now, and I do like it. I don't wear it all the time, because I'm still at home/in the middle of treatment/taking naps, so I don't wear a bra if I don't have to.

    I did notice that it doesn't feel as realistic when being hugged as the Amoena Natura Light does. Probably because the Amoena is silicon(?) all the way through, whereas the Equitex only has silicon on the surface and a puff to give volume which doesn't squish in the same way.

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  5. "For me, the process of deciding whether or not to have reconstruction turned out to be the most profound experience of my breast cancer journey."

    And so it was for me as well.

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  6. I last posted about the Equitex on Dec 13th... and now almost a year later, I can say it is my favorite. Back in December, I was sensitive to a "hugging" difference... but honestly, I don't notice it anymore, and neither do others. I was wearing a fairly tight shirt today (albeit with a pattern), and I looked normal, even though I have a natural breast on one side, and the breast form on the other.

    The Amoena Natura Light is a very good form, I just prefer the Equitex a little more as it's lighter but has a similar effect.

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  7. My aunt lost both of her breasts to and she had a hard time finding attachable breast forms that worked for her. I am sorry you have to go through this.

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  8. My breasts just never developed at all, so I am in a similar boat without having any surgery. I have normal nipples but nothing more. It sort of runs in my family. I wore padded bras from age 13 until about 15 years ago when I realized that mastectomy bras worked much better for my needs.

    Your site helped me decide to order microbead forms and I hope that will make this hot summer easier to bear. I sometimes go breastless around the house, but mostly I always wear my "breasts" and am never seen without them. I have a classic hourglass figure with them and it would look very obvious with absolutely noting on top.

    I had seen the Pals online but never tried them and thanks to your favorable writeup, I think I will.

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  9. These posts have been so helpful. I too have been trialing and error-ing my way through various equalizers. Not post surgery, but tiny and uneven. Local fitters tend to stock larger sizes so going online seems like the only way to get access to the array of equalizers in small sizes. Like Lara I now wear mastectomy bras instead of padded bras. I wish someone would publish a guide to the various manufacturers, complete with measurements of the different forms/sizes so that we could compare across brands.

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