Lingerie social enterprise Comfort Me Health Wear caters to Hong Kong breast cancer survivors
The social enterprise has been nominated for the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards for its contribution to helping women who have had a mastectomy
The peace and quiet of a spacious lingerie shop in Mong Kok contrasts sharply with the cacophony of street noises downstairs. Here, patrons can feel at ease, but most of the women are picking out the clothing for a more poignant reason – they want intimate wear for life after a mastectomy.
Comfort Me Health Wear’s founder Lonna Kwan So Chiu-yan said many former breast cancer patients felt embarrassed when they first visited her shop as they did not really know what they needed after surgery.
“They had little support,” she said.
The specialists at Comfort Me have since 2016 served more than 1,000 breast cancer survivors in Hong Kong.
Staff at the social enterprise talk to the customers, many of whom have been referred by hospitals and cancer support groups, and explain to them the importance of wearing suitable bras for good health, following surgery.
Comfort Me’s co-founder Angie Lin Lai Ka-wah said former cancer breast patients in general should choose bras with a high cotton content as they would be gentler on the skin and more comfortable.
Some may need to buy mastectomy bras that are specifically designed for women who have had their breasts removed.
Lin said many breast cancer survivors would be hesitant at first about buying any products they might consider expensive in the shop.
“Many of them have spent a fortune on treatment. They are uncertain about their future and reluctant to bear an additional financial burden,” she said.
Lin said many former patients were unwilling to meet people because they saw the changes in their bodies as a form of disfigurement.
Comfort Me staff said they wanted to help those with low self-esteem rebuild their confidence.
For its efforts, the enterprise has been nominated by the South China Morning Post for its Spirit of Hong Kong Awards, which honour inspirational local individuals and groups that make the city a better place to live.
Comfort Me Health Wear is nominated under the Corporate Citizen award, which recognises enterprises that have embraced their roles as socially responsible corporate citizens.
Kwan’s employees visit recovering breast cancer patients in hospitals and hold free seminars to educate the public about reducing the risks of breast cancer and how to choose proper bras.
Lin said she often saw noticeable changes in attitudes among users who had previously felt unhappy and helpless.
“There was an old lady who was trying on our post-surgical bras. She became so happy and proud of herself the moment she donned the apparel. She strutted and showed off her figure like a runway model in front of us,” she said.
Kwan said the social enterprise sought to help more breast cancer survivors regain their confidence.
Their products were priced markedly lower than those of major brands, she said.
The shop also sells mainstream items such as sports bras to subsidise its post-surgery products.