Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

May 3, 2005 > Support for the body and soul

Support for the body and soul

by Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

Amid the busy traffic of mid-town Fremont, there is a special place where women go for a dose of tranquility. Located in the Washington Hospital West building in Fremont, this sanctuary tends to the needs of both body and soul.

Ten years ago, Trisha McMahon, who holds degrees in Health Science and Spirituality, set out to do something extraordinary for women. From her garage in Fremont, she created Bras for Body & Soul, a shop specializing in fitting bras for women who had had mastectomies. Word got around and friends asked if she could get other types of hard-to-find bras. The answer was "yes" and today Bras for Body & Soul is more than a brassiere shop; it is a place where a woman can learn how to feel good in her own skin.

Until the thirteenth century, the term brassiere ("a woman's underbodice worn to support the breasts") did not exist. Early brassieres consisted of a stiff underbodice called a "cotte" that by the seventeenth century was transformed into a constrictive corset that remained a mainstay until the early twentieth century when the modern bra (two straps, two cups and a band) was created. And for the past 100 years, the "bra" has remained virtually the same.

The reality of a well-fitting bra is foreign to many women. Strap often cut and dig into shoulders or loose straps provide little support. Binding bands and ill-fitting cups are just a few of the obstacles facing women.

"Bras that work - some people think that's an oxymoron," McMahon said.

Her philosophy is simple; a bra should not bind, pinch, suffocate or constrict. It should support, comfort, and enhance. A well-fitted bra can improve a woman's health, making her stand up straighter, feel stronger, be more confident. A woman who is considering breast reduction surgery may just change her mind after a having custom fit bra made.

A former nun, McMahon believes that synchronization of mind, body and soul creates a whole, satisfied being.

Bras are personal and remind women of their physical and spiritual well-being. "When something doesn't fit, a woman tends to think there is something wrong with her," explained the "Bra'ista" who hopes that through education and raising awareness she can teach women that off-the-rack bras are not the only answer.

Whether a woman has small breasts, no breasts, asymmetrical breasts, surgically-altered breasts, large breasts or any issue, she is sure to find a well-fitting, supportive and surprisingly comfortable bra among the endless combination of sizes that are available at Bras for Body and Soul. "Misconceptions are preventing women from coming here, which is a tragedy" said Julie Ward, an employee and former volunteer who emphasized that it is a place for all women, not just breast cancer survivors.

Stepping into the inviting boutique, one may ask, "Where are all the bras?"

They are there but Bras for Body & Soul is about much more. Shelves and racks of brightly colored bathing suits, scarves, hats, bathrobes and candles (just to name a few of the treasures) help visitors to understand that this shop is dedicated to the spirit of woman not just her breasts.

Cancer survivors, initially the store's target client, are often surprised at the bright, pleasant feel of the shop, expecting an impersonal medical supply store. In place of an austere, drug store environment, women can shop for custom fit bras, prostheses and even wigs in privacy at the boutique. After experiencing the devastation of breast cancer, said McMahon, a woman is entitled to a normal shopping experience. She is determined to teach women that bras should conform to their body shape not the other way around.

The shop is located inside of Washington Hospital West in a sunny, art-deco style shop. McMahon's father was a founding member of Washington Hospital and she continues his legacy of innovative health care as Program Director of Bras for Body & Soul. "I had no idea the store was this lovely; it's a gift for the women that need it," explained Christie Lee, a client from Redwood City, on her first trip to Bras for Body & Soul.

McMahon and the rest of the staff at Bras for Body & Soul believe that all women need a place like this - a setting where women can feel comfortable picking out a bra or buying a wig. Here is an environment where those undergoing treatment and cancer survivors can talk about family life and cancer therapies and know that someone is there to listen.

Committed to women's health and wellness, Bras for Body & Soul founded the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of and educating the public about breast cancer. Renowned artist, Laurel Burch, known best for her colorful, symmetrical cats, is an avid supporter of the foundation, even giving them one of her pieces to use as their logo.

Burch, and other notable guests, will be on hand to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Bras for Body & Soul with the "Celebration of Women: Body and Soul Conference on May 14. This event will explore all aspects of womanhood including health, preventive care, inspirational speeches and much more. It is the perfect opportunity for a mother and daughter or a couple of female friends to bond while being educated.

Inspirational Humorist Terri Tate, RN, MS., will discuss "Shopping as a Spiritual Path: Finding Your Own Way to Wellness."
Just confirmed is special guest speaker California Senator Jackie Speier, who recently authored a bill to improve conditions in women's prisons.

Celebration of Women begins at 8 a.m. with a welcome reception and continues throughout the day with performances, discussions and the remarkable sounds of harpists Lynne Reardon, Janice Fairlee and Marci DeFrancsco.

The conference will be held at Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Ave. in Fremont. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by calling Bras for Body & Soul at (510) 790-1911.
Bras for Body & Soul
2500 Mowry Ave., Ste. 130 Fremont
(510) 790-1911

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