Breast Cancer survivor is supporting city’s women
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
WOMEN will know that good underwear is the foundation for feeling confident underneath your clothes.
But for those who've survived the devastation of a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, good underwear - and a sense of self confidence - can be hard to find.
Not in Newry though. Nestled near the Town Hall, in Kildare Street, is a little shop that offers mastectomy survivors choice and care when it comes to post-surgery underwear.
And what makes Azizi quite unique is that the person offering the service, owner Jean McCracken, is herself a breast cancer and mastectomy survivor.
“I know from first-hand experience just how difficult finding the right bra after a mastectomy can be," Jean said. "It can be a traumatic and humiliating experience. It took me a long, long time to source what I needed after my mastectomy and options were practically nonexistent in terms of style."
Jean decided to do something about the situation she and so many other women faced. Quitting her full-time job in health care, she took a leap of faith into business.
Two years to the day after her mastectomy, Jean opened her first Azizi store in Lisburn, followed last year by the Newry branch.
“I couldn't see why women who'd had a mastectomy should be treated differently or have a different shopping experience from any other woman. Just because a women goes through cancer doesn't mean she should be deprived of options," she said.
“We're different. Some women like lace and frills, others like something simple, casual. Some are looking for shape, some comfort. Even if you lost a breast or both breasts, you're still a woman. You still need to be the way you are. You still need your self esteem, because if it goes down you go down with it."
Jean's determination to turn the negative into a positive has paid off. Last year Azizi made it to the finals of Underlines Magazine Best Newcomer award and was named an Care Centre of Excellence by specialist underwear and swimwear company, Anita - the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland.
“Those accolades do make me feel proud, because they were given in recognition of our product range, knowledge base and level of customer care," Jean said.
But it's in dealing with the women who come through Aziza's door that Jean takes most pride. "It still amazes how these women have embraced what they have to go through," she said.
“Each and every woman I meet has found inner resources they weren't aware they had. Cancer makes you refocus on what you really want from life. For me that was this shop and I hope that, as well as making a difference to my life, it's making a difference to my customers too.
“There's nothing better than seeing a woman walk out of the shop looking a little taller, holding her head a little higher than when she walked in."
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