A local shop helps restore women’s confidence after breast cancer surgery
There’s a certain comfort about A Fitting Experience, where customers ring a bell and enter a world of understanding and compassion. Women arrive one after another—sometimes 50 in one week.
While they all share a similar experience, their needs are far from the same.
A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe in Margate is for women who have had breast surgery. The shop has post-mastectomy products, including custom-fitted breast-form prostheses and special bras created with pockets for full and partial forms. Some of the prostheses are made of lightweight foam, while others are created to be more lifelike, molded from silicone.
To co-owners Beth Agami and Goldie Cole, the women are not patients or clients but “guests.” Agami and Cole have been in the post-mastectomy business for 20 years, first opening in Hollywood before opening in Margate in 2005. Besides its present location, A Fitting Experience has an online store at mastectomyshop.com.
In the early days of the business, Agami says, the norm was for lingerie stores to stock a few items for women who needed special bras and for medical supply stores to keep a limited number of breast-form prostheses in their inventories. “A supply store might have one on the shelf and they’d give a woman what they had in stock,” she says.
Agami, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, saw a need for something more personal.
“The experience is emotional and mental, as well as physical,” Agami says.
In 1998, the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act became law. Among other points, it entitles women who get mastectomies to have prostheses covered by their health plans. A Fitting Experience is Medicare-accredited, which allows it to provide products under health maintenance organizations and insurance.
Despite its “on paper” status as a medical equipment supply store, its appearance belies that fact. “Because of Medicare requirements, they want us to be more of a facility than a boutique. But we strive to incorporate both,” Agami says.
The shop’s mastectomy fitters are certified through the American Board for Certification for Orthotics and Prosthetics, and the store is accredited by the board as well. “Accreditation is a rigorous process, but one that we welcome,” says Cole, who, along with Agami, is a certified fitter.
Fitting rooms are brightly colored, mostly in pink. The array of swimsuits and undergarments available rival any Victoria’s Secret catalog. “We want women to come in and feel like they’ve entered a comfort zone,” Agami says.
A Fitting Experience has many distinctions, including being one of the largest suppliers of post-mastectomy products, and one of the largest suppliers of breast forms for African-American women. They also fit teenage girls born with Poland syndrome, an uncommon birth defect in which, among other symptoms, one breast develops while the other does not.
“The most satisfying fitting you can do is for a young girl whose self-image is improved because she’s learned that there is something available to her that will make her feel ‘normal,’” Cole says.
The co-owners hope to let mastectomy surgeons know services such as theirs should be an integral part of a breast cancer patient’s treatment plan.
“It’s all part of the healing process,” Agami says. “This is the completion: when they walk out of our door after everything they’ve been through and can look in a mirror and say, ‘I feel great because I look great.’ ”
A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe
1605 N. State Road 7, Margate 954.978.8287; afittingexperience.com