Allies, A Specialty Boutique stays true to its name. Since 2017, this company has been the only provider of post-mastectomy products in Bellingham — and, more recently, in Anchorage, Alaska. Its greater project started in 2014 with Owner and Certified Fitter Laura DeWitt, herself a breast cancer survivor.
“It started in response to a need,” DeWitt says. “There was nothing in our community available for women after surgery for breast cancer; everything had to be done down in the Seattle area.” She tried to get one of the Seattle stores to open a northern branch but when nothing came of that, DeWitt began to look at what it would take to open up something locally herself.
Allies’ range of products include breast forms, pocketed bras, and compression garments.
“We provide everything a person will need from the time they have their surgery, [from] post-surgical garments to the time after that,” says DeWitt. “We have lightweight breast forms, silicone breast forms, [and] pocketed bras.” The shop also offers shapers for women who have had partial mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery or have had a reconstruction that isn’t as symmetrical as they might prefer.
The boutique offers both over-the-counter and custom options for upper- and lower-body compression garments to help treat lymphedema.
Beyond its permanent location in Bellingham, Allies’ operations in Anchorage have provided some of the only mastectomy products available in Alaska.
“I started a couple of years ago, going up and doing week-long fit events where I take a bunch of products with me and basically set up an entire store [and] schedule people to come in,” DeWitt says. “We do a bunch of fittings, dispense a bunch of products. And again, I saw an unmet need for women after breast cancer and found a way to be of service.”
Simplifying the Search
Working directly with doctors’ offices to get the right documentation, Allies helps clients find the products best suited to them.
“We work with their insurance to get any prior authorizations required or try to figure out exactly what products are going to be covered,” says DeWitt. “All the breast care products are covered under people’s medical insurance. A lot of people don’t know that, which is unfortunate. They sometimes think these products are outside of their ability to pay, but it’s all covered and part of the Women’s Health Care Act.”
Since the 2023 Lymphedema Treatment Act, compression garments and lymphedema treatments are covered under Medicare as of January 2024.
Like other post-mastectomy care providers, Allies works to ease the complications of life after surgery.
“We try to provide women a sense of normality after a very chaotic and abnormal time in their lives after cancer diagnosis,” says DeWitt. “The products we provide help provide visual symmetry for people after cancer. And it makes a big difference when you can go out in the community and feel confident in yourself, in the way that you’re sharing yourself.”
There are physical aspects to consider, as well. A single-sided mastectomy, for instance, puts a different weight on your chest wall, causing shoulder drops and potentially back issues. “There are all sorts of different things [our] products provide physically and mentally for breast cancer survivors.”
Forming Alliances Into the Future
In recent years, Allies has expanded their community outreach to include events such as film screenings and fit events in Alaska.
“I try to do some community events,” DeWitt says of the Alaskan expansion. “It [can be] hard to fit it in with seeing clients and running the business, but I hope to do more in the future.”
With community awareness growing gradually, DeWitt says, breast cancer survivors in Bellingham are often surprised and glad to discover the services Allies offers locally.
“Every day, the people I work with, I’m just so thankful I can help them find what they need to feel complete,” says DeWitt. “The work that I do is very, very rewarding. The people we see are thankful we’re here and they don’t have to drive 100 miles; they can just come across town and find us here for them.”