Breast cancer survivor Susan Scheid wanted to get on with living—and that included swimming. But she couldn't find a suit to fit.
Shopping for a swimsuit is no one's favorite activity. Now imagine doing it after a mastectomy, and you'll understand what lawyer Susan Scheid was up against.
After her bilateral surgery three and a half years ago, Scheid (who performs contract and regulatory work for nonprofit health organizations) decided against breast reconstruction. "I wanted to be freed of medical intervention as quickly as possible and just get on with my life," she says. She doesn't use prosthetic devices, either. A small-breasted woman, she'd never fooled with bust-related "contraptions": "Why start now?"
Since Scheid's usual style was easy and loose-fitting, her wardrobe didn't change much—but swimsuits, she says, were "the last clothing frontier." She ordered one after another from catalogs; none fit. She'd always liked Lands' End, but its mastectomy suits all had pockets for breast forms. Scheid was forced to improvise by buying regular tank suits and cutting out the shelf bras. "Although they fit pretty well, they felt makeshift. You want to feel normal after surgery. Having to doctor your swimsuit reminds you that you aren't recognized as a normal body type. It reminds you of loss."
Scheid didn't quit. For two years she made her case to Lands' End, calling the company's customer service and writing letters to its president, and at last the swimwear design team there offered to customize suits for her (no bra, no pockets, minimal gathering at the bust)—free of charge. The suits are "flattering even for the flat-chested 58-year-old dame that I am," she wrote to the company's president in a letter of thanks last spring.
The happy upshot: Lands' End began offering its Tugless Tank in a lined, braless version. "Just because you have a different shape, you shouldn't have to give up looking good," says Scheid, who's ordered one of the suits—in hot pink.