HER MAGAZINE

Helping women look and feel beautiful after breast cancer surgery

Cheryl Schlote's boutique, Scarlet's Unmentionables, is seen in Coralville on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Cheryl Schlote wa
Cheryl Schlote’s boutique, Scarlet’s Unmentionables, is seen in Coralville on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Cheryl Schlote wants to offer post-mastectomy patients a private and intimate setting in which to shop for bras and prostheses. She has also begun working with transgender patients. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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During what can be the most unexpected and challenging time of a woman’s life — recovering from breast cancer treatment — Cheryl Schlote is there to help.

A certified mastectomy fitter, Schlote owns and operates Scarlet’s Unmentionables, a full-service boutique at 2771 Oakdale Blvd. in Coralville, where she fits patients for bras after they have had a mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast reconstruction surgery.

“I fit women with a bra that has a pocket for a prosthesis,” Schlote said. “Often, after surgery, patients have lymphedema in their hands or arms, so I also fit compression garments to help with the swelling.”

EMOTIONAL CONNECTION

Schlote opened her business in 2017 but has been working in the field for more than two decades.

Years ago, working with her first patient, she learned that many women need to heal not only physically, but also emotionally, and many struggle to look in the mirror after surgery.

“It was about a week after I started that a patient brought me her prescription for a prosthesis. I explained to her that I was new, but that I would help her get through this,” Schlote said.

“This woman was having trouble even looking at herself. After trying on several options, I told her that I thought we had found something that really worked for her. I finally convinced her to take a look in the mirror, and she just gave me a huge smile.”

Schlote, herself, started to cry.

“This woman had come in feeling so down, and after a couple of hours, she felt good about herself,” she said. “It meant a lot to me.”

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That powerful emotional connection has brought purpose to Scholte’s work and her life. She went on to pursue additional training and earn her Certified Mastectomy Fitter certification.

‘SUPER PERSONAL’

Several years ago, after cutbacks at her former employer, Schlote decided to start her own business, Scarlet’s Unmentionables.

“What I do is kind of a dying breed — there are not a lot of shops around,” Schlote said. “It’s hard for women to find someone who will take the time to do a proper fitting instead of just ordering a product online.”

She runs the entire business herself, scheduling one-on-one appointments for fittings.

“I lock the door and don’t answer the phone, and I help fit them,” she said. “My goal is for each woman to go home feeling good about herself.”

“It’s a super personal thing,” she added. “And it’s different for each woman. Sometimes, women will get emotional.”

‘A SAFE ZONE’

“My business is a safe zone — my patients may not always be able to talk to their spouse or children or friends about what they’re going through. But sometimes it helps for them to unload some of what they’re carrying with me. I’ve heard it all, and I’m here to listen.”

After breast surgery, Schlote said, woman “are often bombarded with a lot information in a short amount of time. Then all of the sudden they’re free to go after surgery, but they don’t often know what their next step should be. I try to provide some guidance as to what they can expect … hopefully, that helps take away some of the fear and helps them move toward healing.”

When the pandemic began this spring, Schlote closed her business for about three months, but her customer base has remained loyal. Many of her referrals come from word-of-mouth. She also has built long-term relationships with a number of area doctors.

Many patients are able to have insurance cover at least a portion of their bras and prosthetics, and Schlote helps guide patients through that process, too.

“Ultimately, I try to work with patients to make sure they can get the best value in addition to the best service,” she said.

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