Lingerie support for cancer survivors
Tucked away in a quiet Mangawhai road, a flourishing clothing business is offering choice and freedom to women who have endured a mastectomy and now live with prosthetic breasts.
Entrepreneur, cancer survivor and clothes lover, Sharan McNaughton, is the designer of Tara Swimwear, an online lingerie and swimwear store which she created after her own experience with breast cancer.
Diagnosed in 2010, Sharan was initially advised she would not require surgery so was stunned to be told at a later consultation that her right breast would have to be removed after five lumps were detected.
“After my mastectomy, I had a few healing problems and was stuck with the post-surgery bras… I hated every moment,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to get my prosthesis and new bras, it became something to look forward to.”
However Sharan’s excitement at being liberated from the surgical garments and back into feminine lingerie was short lived.
“What a disappointment! All I could see were rows of black, white and beige,” she says. “I found one red bra which I bought even though it wasn’t actually my size!”
The price tag of the garments also shocked Sharan, with the government subsidy covering her breast prosthesis and ‘not quite three bras’, supposedly to last four years until her next round of funding.
“I am normally a positive person… but I became very despondent,” Sharan says. “I think it was the last straw following diagnosis, surgery and the thought of the upcoming chemo and radiotherapy.”
Realising that other women possibly felt the same way over the lack of selection, Sharan researched alternatives for pocketed swimwear and lingerie and the business began to ‘take shape’.
Offering affordable, well designed items, Tara Swimwear was launched in November 2014.
“All our swimwear and bras are pocketed for prosthetic breasts, are non-wired, sit higher on the chest to cover scarring and have no boning under the arms due to the
skins tenderness after surgery,” Sharan says. “The designers I buy from are breast cancer survivors or have a link in some way. They know what works.”
Sharan’s designers have also won awards for their styles and an Australian label, Red Fern, was selected to have lingerie items in this year’s give-a-way Oscar bags.
The business became an accredited supplier with the NZ Ministry of Health in 2015 allowing women to use their Breast Prosthesis Subsidy to buy from the store.
“When I get feedback from customers telling me they’ve gone swimming for the first time since their surgery, I get quite teary,” Sharan says. “It reminds me why I do this… every day is a gift.”
STYLE: Sharan McNaughton with a few of her favourite purpose-designed lingerie and swimwear. “I’m thrilled to be able to help women in the same situation as me,” she says. [PHOTO/Julia Wade]
“The designers I buy from are breast cancer survivors or have a link in some way. They know what works.”
- Sharan McNaughton