You don't need breasts to feel beautiful: B.C. stylist empowering cancer survivors to love their new bodies
VANCOUVER -- Stylist and breast cancer survivor Tracey Stewart knows what looks good.
"She showed me how to get away from basic black to really start to have a lot of fun with patterns and shape and colour," said one of her clients, Sheri Bees.
Stewart's expertise is specific to other survivors like her; women who have opted out of reconstruction surgery "and chosen to go flat," as she describes it.
She didn't make that decision right away. At first, she had implants, but said it didn't feel right.
"I had said to my surgeon that it felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye all the time. That's how I described having the implants," said Stewart.
And that can happen, according to plastic and reconstruction surgeon at Providence Health Care Dr. Nancy Van Laeken.
"Sometimes the implants are painful. Sometimes they never feel as natural or like a real breast," said Van Laeken.
For Stewart, removing them was the right choice. Her only regret? Not going flat sooner.
"At the time when I was diagnosed, it wasn't really offered to me as an option to go natural to go flat," said Stewart.
But Dr. Van Laeken says informed consent is crucial and that never should have happened.
"I just want to be really clear that every patient should be given the choices. It's their choice, and that should be made clear by the surgeons involved in their care," said Dr. Van Laeken.
But regardless of her journey to be a "flattie," Stewart has embraced her new body, and in October founded Going Flat Fashion – a thrifting styling service for survivors.
"There are so many things that you don't think about when you have breasts that when you don't become a problem for dressing," said Stewart.
Sheri Bees is one of her clients. About a decade ago she went through a single mastectomy.
"I didn't want a reconstruction," said Bees.
For a few years, she just hid under hoodies and baggy clothes.
"Clothes have always been such an outlet for me of 'who do I want to be today?' and to have that taken away was really difficult," said Bees.
But clothes are a creative outlet she was able to rediscover with Stewart's help.
"To feel that femininity again and just that sense of joy was so empowering," said Bees.
Because of COVID- 19 restrictions, the free consultations are done virtually but on the bright side, that's allowed her to reach more women.
Elizabeth Dale was able to get some styling tips from Seattle, Wash.
"We had a 30-minute consultation. I sent her my measurements, I sent her some of my sizing in typical brands and I think she sent me nine to 10 pieces, and all but one fit. Tracy really understood my body and some of the challenges that we face with regular women's clothes," said Dale.
One outfit a time, Stewart is hoping to shatter beauty norms "about how empowered you can be and how it doesn't actually determine your femininity and your beauty."