Patricia Brett Making a Difference for Breast Cancer Survivors
Patricia Brett cheated cancer. She lost 3 aunts to breast cancer. Her sister and several first cousins were all diagnosed with it at relatively young ages, and another cousin had ovarian cancer. Preemptive testing she had done in 2002 revealed that she had the BRCA1 gene, a mutation that gave her an 85% chance of getting breast cancer. For Patricia, it was not a question of if she would get cancer, it was a question of when.
So, instead of waiting for breast or ovarian cancer, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 2003 and ovary-removing surgery in 2007. "While these measures may seem drastic to some," she says, "it was the only way I could insure that...cancer would not prevent me from some day attending my son's wedding or seeing him graduate from college."
Had she not experienced these life changes, she would not have become aware of a glaring need that many breast cancer survivors and "pre-vivors" (women who have not been diagnosed with cancer, but have survived the higher risk of cancer) have: beautiful fashion designed specifically for them, with added coverage in certain places, sexier cuts in others, and pockets for breast forms. When her niece, beautiful 29-year-old Gabe, underwent a mastectomy without reconstruction, and vented that she'd have to give away her entire wardrobe or wear horrible floral mastectomy swimsuits with little skirt bottoms, an idea blossomed in Patricia's mind.
That idea grew into what is today the Veronica Brett swimwear collection, and today, Patricia Brett is a mother to a 9-year-old son, a successful businesswoman who has been featured in "O, the Oprah Magazine," and a woman who is "paying forward" the new lease she has on life by improving the quality of life of other women who've overcome breast cancer. "Adversity is only adversity if you make it that," she says. For her, it was not a question of whether or not she would survive it, it was a question of what she would learn from it.
Indeed, this woman is no stranger to learning, having earned a Masters degree in Architecture from Yale. She joked, "If I can design a building, surely I can design a bra or swimsuit?!" She was versed in the concepts of making beautiful things that solved problems. She knew, by education, to pull out a sketchbook as soon as the swimsuit idea came to her so that she could rough it out. She knew to research precedence, to find out what was out there for both survivors and the average woman. She knew there was a need and a market.
How has this affected her role as mother? Like most of us, she's learned to juggle, to "pick her battles", to appreciate a supportive husband, and to focus on what's most important: making a good quality of life for her family. Having good routines such as breakfast together every morning and movie night every Friday has been an important means of maintaining their quality of life.
Ultimately, it's not just about beating cancer to Patricia. It's about Veronica Brett swimsuits and bikinis being sold in many stores and boutiques, making post-mastectomy fashion easily accessible. It's about her being able to go to her son's wedding. It's all about making a difference for others.