Allana Maiden was preparing for the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walk in October 2012 with her mother Debbie Barriett, a breast cancer survivor who underwent a mastectomy 21 years ago, when they came across a problem that many women don't even think about: They couldn't get a bra.
"I got to thinking about how my mom has to drive an hour and a half to a specialty store just to buy a bra," the 27-year-old told CBSNews.com. "There's really something we should do to make these bras more accessible to women."
Maiden, who works in an animal shelter in Richmond, Va, started an online petition on Change.org to get one of the largest women's lingerie retailers Victoria's Secret to make mastectomy "survivor bras." On Thursday, Maiden and Barriett delivered 118,000 signatures to Tammy Roberts Myers, vice president of external communications for Victoria's Secret's parent company Limited Brands, in New York. And, the online petition keeps gaining even more signatures.
An estimated 232,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Many women who are diagnosed in early stage breast cancer can decide between a lumpectomy (which removes the tumor and part of the surrounding breast tissue) or a mastectomy (which removes the entire breast. Susan B. Komen for the Cure reported that there's also been an increase in women getting a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), where the opposite, healthy breast is removed to prevent a tumor growing there.
Not only is finding specialty stores that sell mastectomy bras difficult, they're hard to order online because of the fit, Maiden pointed out. And, though companies have been trying to make the bras "prettier," the mastectomy bras tend to be not that stylish.
"Especially for the younger girls (with cancer),"Barriett added. "I think it will just make them feel better to be able to wear the same kind of bras that other ladies wear."
Maiden targeted Victoria's Secret because they were a brand that was located in most malls, which would make the bras more accessible for many women. She also remembered a personal experience when she went into one store, and after getting measured, she realized she had been wearing the wrong bra size the whole time.
"Just getting into the right fitting bra can make you feel better," Maiden explained.
Maiden admitted she was surprised that Victoria's Secret was willing to meet with them, but she knew they'd eventually have to respond since so many people were interested in the bra. She said the company was very interested in exploring the idea, and offered to fly both mother and daughter out to their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio to talk more about the potential products.}
Part of the problems that Victoria's Secret might run into with these bras is that mastectomy bras are are regulated by the FDA as a medical advice, Maiden said. In addition, Victoria's Secret would have to pursue the option of allowing people to pay for the bras using insurance. In addition, employees who fit people for mastectomy bras have to obtain a special license.
But, if the bras do go into production, Maiden said she's already gathered a lot of ideas on how to expand the line. Many supporters have suggested everything from mastectomy swimsuit lines to camisoles to help cover scars.
Maiden is prepared to campaign until the bras are made.
"(My mom) just said that she's really proud of me that I'm doing this," she said.
To read more about the Change.org petition, click here.