The bra that helps women to heal after mastectomy
Entrepreneur incorporates bamboo in material because it f ights bacteria
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