The bra that helps women to heal af­ter mas­tec­tomy

En­trepreneur in­cor­po­rates bam­boo in ma­te­rial be­cause it f ights bac­te­ria

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - By Ni­amh Grif­fin HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT ni­amh.grif­fin@mailon­sun­day.ie

AN Ir­ish woman has cre­ated a bra that helps pro­mote heal­ing in breast can­cer sur­vivors who have un­der­gone mas­tec­tomy.

Now Ciara Don­lon’s com­pany, Theya Health­care, is in with a chance of win­ning a pres­ti­gious en­trepreneur­ship award.

The se­cret of her suc­cess, she says, is the anti-bac­te­rial qual­i­ties of bam­boo. The gar­den plant has fi­bres that are pli­able enough to be wo­ven into tex­tiles and that will fight

‘These women needed some­thing com­fort­able’

bugs at a point when women’s bod­ies can be par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tion.

Each bra sold by Theya Health­care car­ries a touch­ing re­minder of Ciara’s own rea­son for tak­ing an in­ter­est in this cloth­ing: an em­broi­dered rose to rep­re­sent Ciara’s grand­mother Rose, who her­self suf­fered from breast can­cer.

Ciara came up with the idea of de­sign­ing the bras while run­ning a lin­gerie shop in Dublin, where she met can­cer pa­tients who found it dif­fi­cult to find ap­pro­pri­ate un­der­wear. ‘These women had been through can­cer, they needed some­thing com­fort­able,’ Ciara said.

‘I could not get over the fact that there was so lit­tle there for them.’

Many of the bras on the mar­ket at that time, she re­called, ‘were ei­ther very func­tional or else quite sexy with loads of lace. None of the women I knew wanted that.’ Fol­low­ing her hunch, she ap­plied for an En­ter­prise Ire­land grant which al­lowed her to con­duct re­search, work­ing with Ir­ish and UK can­cer pa­tients.

The process yielded fas­ci­nat­ing re­sults, and Ciara de­vised a bra that did away with tags and opened at the front.

She also al­tered the ma­te­rial to make it hold its shape for longer, mean­ing that the fab­ric does not roll on one side for women who have had a breast re­moved.

The bam­boo bras come with a soft pad which women can use to cus­tomise the bra to their own indi- vid­ual post-surgery body shape. Apart from the de­sign, the other unique el­e­ment of the bras is the use of bam­boo, a sub­stance Ciara likens to ‘a mir­a­cle ma­te­rial’ (see panel).

Ciara said: ‘The bras should feel fem­i­nine as well. All of our bras have a wild rose on them, our logo. The rea­son for that is my granny’s name was Rose and she sur­vived a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy. So the logo is per­sonal.’

She be­lieves that a key com­po­nent to the bras’ pop­u­lar­ity with women is the fe­male-heavy ethos in the firm: ‘All our de­sign­ers are fe­male: that is un­usual.’

Now Ciara has been nom­i­nated as an Ir­ish en­try in the global EY En­trepreneur of the Year award, where she will com­pete with busi­ness peo­ple from more than 50 coun­tries next June.

‘I’m in the emerg­ing cat­e­gory,’ Ciara said. ‘It’s ex­cit­ing. My granny is long dead and I feel like I’ve im­mor­talised her. I feel we are help­ing some women, I hope I’m not per­son­ally touched by breast can­cer again but I feel we are fill­ing a gap for women.’

The com­pany is in its third year, with a list of stock­ists around Ire­land, the UK and con­ti­nen­tal Europe on its web­site. Theya Health­care says it works with three Ir­ish hos­pi­tals and a num­ber of NHS ones. The NHS hos­pi­tals, St Vin­cent’s and St James’s hos­pi­tals de­clined to com­ment when asked but a spokesman for Dublin’s Mater con­firmed that Meagher’s Phar­macy in the hos­pi­tal build­ing sup­plied Theya Health­care bras.

‘I feel like I’ve made my granny im­mor­tal’

DE­sIGn: The Theya bras fea­ture a rose mo­tif

BUsI­nEss: Ciara Don­lon of Theya Health­care

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