By JOURNEY Staff
Bridget Leslie took a huge negative and turned it into something beyond positive.
For the past eight years Leslie, as owner of the My Left Breast shop in Charlotte Mews, has been helping cancer survivors on their journey to heal.
The store sells wigs, bras, compression sleeves, hats, scarves, swimwear, and specialized clothing, and provides prothesis and professional bra fittings. All the while it offers a warm, cozy spot for women to meet and share their stories.
“It’s been very satisfying to take an idea and see it come to fruition, being part of a community and seeing that community grow around us. Often customers will come in and meet others. That’s the best part when that happens,” said Leslie, a Vancouver native who moved to Peterborough in 1985, and is a married mother of two daughters.
But the path to successful entrepreneur didn’t come easily.
“I’ve gotten a new career …I get to work with wonderful women every day who are facing challenges in life, and I can help them stand up proud.”
In 2005 she completed a Work and Society Master’s degree at McMaster University focusing on women working in caring labour and the impact on their health. A year later, at age 44, while working at the local Health Unit as an Infant Development Worker she was diagnosed “totally out of the blue” with breast cancer.
“When I was in treatment, I went for a mastectomy fitting in Kingston. It just was very sad. It wasn’t a cheery place, and there were few options. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to have a nice place for women to come to, with a good selection where they can get everything they need?'”
And that was the beginning. In 2008, Leslie opened in her basement, doing home visits out of a suitcase. Next came a space at the Peterborough Clinic, which the store outgrew, moving to the Charlotte Mews spot. Last fall, even it needed to be renovated to obtain more space. Recently the store became the region’s only Amoena Shop, an in-store boutique featuring inclusive clothing for all women, including those who wear external breast forms.
The shop holds workshops once a month on topics such as essential oils, yoga, reflexology, and meditation It also holds Lymphedema information sessions, and works with people dealing with the condition. It is registered with the Ontario government’s Assistive Devices Program as fitters, and is a vendor for medical compression garments. It works closely with Registered Massage Therapists who are trained in Lymphatic massage.
Diane Couse and Marlene Jenkins are also on staff. Both are Dragon Boat racers, as is Leslie. She and Couse are members of Peterborough’s Survivors’ Abreast Dragon Boat team; Jenkins is a member of Cobourg’s Survivor Thrivers and the Pickering Dragon Boat competitive Senior C women’s team, which went to the World Dragon Boat Competition in Australia in March.
“Everyone who works here has gone through breast cancer and can offer peer support as well as some hope,” said Leslie, who emphasized the store caters to everyone, not only cancer survivors.
Leslie enjoys yoga and singing with the local Zippity Doo Dah choir. She has supported Red Pashmina Inc. for four years by selling pashminas at her shop.
“I’ve gotten a new career,” she said. “I get to work with wonderful women every day who are facing challenges in life, and I can help them stand up proud.”
*Bridget Leslie is a Red Pashmina Inc. Woman of Impact Nominee*
Categories: Women in Business