FigLeaf Boutique breast fitter receives national recognition
Madeline (Mal) Munz, FigLeaf Boutique sales associate, has worked for nearly three years as a board-certified breast fitter offering specialized fittings for both cancer patients, as well as new moms. She was honored as Fit Specialist of the Month by Amoena, an acclaimed manufacturer of breast forms, shapers, lingerie and swimwear tailored to aid women along their cancer journey. Below is an excerpt from the company’s interview with Mal regarding her much-deserved win.
Although our Fit Specialist of the Month, Mal Munz, is a Chicago native, she’s called Indianapolis home since 1994. Family life has always been important to Mal, which means she derives great joy from time spent with her two sons and her husband of 37 years, Doug. She feels blessed that her work at FigLeaf Boutique also provides her with joy and a sense of doing something important. Mal credits her own breast cancer experience with making her a better fitter. Although she has had reconstruction, she wore a breast form for a year and a half before having her surgery, and still wears an Amoena Balance partial shaper.
Her breast cancer journey was not an easy one. She nearly died twice. Her great sense of humor and incredible spirit are evident, however, when she recalls that time. “I was in isolation because my blood count was 11. I felt so worn out, it was surreal. I was right by the nurse’s station and they moved me to the end of the hall and I thought, ‘What did I do wrong?’ I didn’t realize at the time, the move was to isolate me because I was in such bad shape. Hurricane Katrina was the only thing on TV at the time. I guess on the bright side, if you want to know anything about that hurricane, just ask me!
Amoena: Why did you become a fitter?
Mal: Times had been pretty rough while I was dealing with breast cancer. Doug was out of work and we had to pay $800 a month to the state of Indiana to have health care, so I knew a lot about how devastating a breast cancer diagnosis can be on many levels. I felt a need to somehow give back, so I began volunteering at the hospital in June of 2009. I volunteered for six months. When a position opened up, I jumped at the chance and luckily I got the job.
Amoena: How does being a breast cancer survivor affect your interaction with your clients?
Mal: I think it makes it 100% better. I can relate to them on everything from being unsure about their prosthesis to deciding whether or not they want to wear a wig. I try to ease their load. I feel that’s my main contribution. I even do stuff like tell them to take an up-close picture of their eyebrows before they start chemo, so they will know how to draw them on and have them look close to normal if and when they lose them.
I’ve been working as a fitter for nearly three years, and it feels great to have a job I really care about. I’m ABC-certified, which is something I’m also proud of. That felt like quite an accomplishment.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena product?
Mal: I love the Hannah bra because there are so many women who don’t want to wear a “bra” bra. They want to feel secure in their dressing without any discomfort. Women can wear this just as soon as their drains are removed. A lot of women who do sports and gardening love the Hannah. And the Hannah Camisole is also very popular because it does allow for the drains. The Valletta tank top is just amazing because people can’t tell you’ve had breast cancer. It really does make a woman look completely normal, so of course we all love it.
Amoena: What’s your most popular Amoena form?
Mal: The Balance pieces are very popular. It seems like more of these types of surgeries (lumpectomies) are occurring. In the eight years since I had surgery, I’ve noticed that women don’t seem to come in looking so washed out and afraid. Perhaps I’m just lucky to be in a setting where the surgical outcomes are so good. I think of myself as a sort of artist: I keep working with a woman until she looks the same on both sides. Of course, bilateral mastectomies are the easiest to fit. The only issue that comes up with these women is they often start out thinking they want bigger breasts. If that’s what they want, that’s what I’ll do, but I caution women to imagine wearing a heavy form 12 hours a day. Luckily, the forms are getting a lot lighter, and Amoena continues to be at the forefront in developing great new prostheses!
Amoena: What makes your store special/unique?
Mal: I often think of FigLeaf as the A to Z of breasts. Along with helping breast cancer patients, we help new moms who are breastfeeding with fittings, too, so we are seeing women from all over the spectrum. All of us truly care about the women we serve, and we make sure to let them know we are here because we want to be! We had a woman from New York who was visiting come for a fitting because of what she’d heard by word‑of‑mouth.
Specific to breast cancer, we carry bras, underwear, pj’s that wick, deodorant and creams designed to be used during radiation, jewelry, a ton of hats, wigs, cooking mitts, mugs, Fight Like a Girl and Save the Ta-Tas t-shirts. One of my personal favorites is the t-shirt that says You’re Right, These Are Fake, My Real Ones Tried to Kill Me!
Amoena: What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Mal: The smile on a woman’s face and the hug I get when they leave. That makes it all worthwhile. They are so scared when they first come in. They see what is available and then come back and are ready to be fitted after their surgery. I swear there is someone watching over us because so often when a woman comes in for the first time, the shop will be empty, which allows me more time to really talk to her, answer her questions, and help calm her fears. Someone asked me, ‘Do you ever forget that you had cancer?’ I do until I get undressed. I can truly relate to the women when they come in. I always hope I make their journey a bit easier. When we talk, I ask if they want to see my reconstruction. If they do, this can often help to change their attitude. They begin to realize that they have lots of options, so they feel a bit more in control. I’ve learned that you have to roll with the punches, and that no two women are alike.