Meet Our Fit Specialist of the Month
Get to know your fitter! Amoena highlights a certified mastectomy fitter each month
Susan Detar -- The Pink Door
Palatka, FL -- September, 2014
After only a brief conversation with fitter Susan Detar, it’s obvious that Hamilton, Ontario’s loss has been Palatka, Florida’s gain since her move to the States in 1993. Susan is the type of person who pays close attention to the needs of her friends and her community, so it’s really no surprise she found her calling as a fitter.
Amoena: How did you become a fitter?
Susan: We had moved to Palatka, and that changed mine and my husband’s business dynamic. For a while, I just kind of had fun -- played tennis and shopped and did what I wanted. I knew I was way too young not to do anything, but jobs were not easy to come by. My friend Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and what we experienced trying to get her fitted after her bilateral surgery wasn’t pleasant. What I found as we were going through the process was that the resource list had seven places and out of that there were actually only three that were still operating.
We went to them. One was a durable medical supplies place with no inventory, no privacy and mostly only men working in the store. Another store just didn’t measure up. In the long run, it took us a couple of months to get her fitted.
We took a trip and shopped in Baltimore and Tampa and found some stuff, but I complained bitterly and Mary finally said I should do something about it.
I did some research and managed to hook up with [Amoena Account Manager] Helene Ryan. She was a big help and she gave me a lot of support and advice. She was behind me 100% when I finally said I’m going to put my house on the line. Helene was an amazing woman and an example of the dedication Amoena provides to fitters!
Amoena: Tell us a little bit about The Pink Door.
Susan: So, as I said, I borrowed against my house and figured out the name because I wanted the sort of ambience the Elizabeth Arden way of thinking provides. I had a really firm vision about what I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t getting anywhere close with the spaces available. I had a friend who was into buying properties – and I kiddingly said to him, ‘Go buy me a house, Mike.’ He came back a week later and said, ‘I bought you a house.’ He actually found it when he came out of church and saw a house across the road for sale.
It’s a 1915 house in the South Historic District of Palatka, just off the main drag. We did a lot of renovations and got it up and running in October of 2005, so this year will be our ninth anniversary. We have a fabulous courtyard in the rear that’s set up as a party spot, and since I also do non-mastectomy stuff, the courtyard is a great gathering place for all sorts of people; it’s doing a lot to revitalize the area.
Amoena: The Pink Door is also quite unique because of Billie. Would you like to share a bit about how she became a part of the mix?
Susan: She came to me in September of 2006. That same year, I had two dogs that died, so I was definitely feeling low. I had a wolf hybrid I’d had since she was a baby, who unexpectedly died when she was only nine. I had adopted a St. Bernard in 1998 and she was probably two when I got her. By 2006, she was getting old too and couldn’t walk so I had to have her put to sleep.
The Humane Society called me to check out this Afghan hound. I sat there for a half hour and I couldn’t get him to pay attention. While I was there, Billie was being walked. She looked just like my wolf hybrid. I took her home and since it was just the two of us, and she was only eight months old, I took her to work with me. She immediately knew what to do, she was the greeter from the get go. She will either stick with us in the fitting room or go outside and lay down. In order to make sure everything was kosher, I have made sure Billie is officially a pet therapy animal.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena bra and why?
Susan: It depends on the person. Everybody is into the seamless bras. In addition to fitting women who have had a mastectomy, my other target market is women who are outside the normal sizes so I have 32 AAAs and go up to an M-cup. I think the one that crosses over really well because it’s both seamless and provides support is the Mona bra. For women who are looking for something a bit less expensive, the Rita bra works well.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena form and why?
Susan: That’s also hard. I don’t have a favorite; I find what they want, not what I want.
I think one of my philosophies when I opened the shop was remembering how important it is for women to be given all the options. There were tons of things out there that Mary and I never saw because of insurance, etc.
Everyone has a different sense of style, what works for them and their pocketbook. I do really like the Contact forms and I’ve had great success for the woman who feels that is the right thing for her. I’ve also had good success with the Essential forms. Many of the women who are older feel these give them a realistic drape.
Amoena: What is your favorite part of being a fitter?
Susan: I’m a purchasing person by trade. One of the things I learned when I was going to school is the importance of the right thing at the right time in the right space, and that’s what The Pink Door feels like. It has already felt just right.
I have always loved fashion, so to my way of thinking, women coming here are no longer patients, they are customers. I want it to be a fun experience. Of course, there are many times where there are tears. And they don’t always involve breast cancer! I had a young woman come in recently who was referred to me by a local clothing store in town. She had one breast that had never grown. After she reached puberty, she and her sister had been designing a look that involved filling that side of her bra with stuff to fill it out. I have an “Angel Closet” because those customers of mine who don’t need items donate them. I was able to find a form that would work for her, and she was absolutely transformed, both physically and emotionally.
To be able to help women who don’t have money or insurance, or are underinsured, always feels so good.
Amoena: What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?
Susan: Women are people – and there are all kinds of people. What I’ve learned after I’ve seen so many women, whether they’ve had surgery or not, with their clothes off they think they are so different from everyone else but they really are the same. I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have some sort of body image issue.
We all have the same concerns and fears. That’s something I battle in the fitting room – getting them to stop thinking there is something wrong with them. Some women feel the breast identifies them but that isn’t true – there is so much more to a person than a body part.
Amoena: What do you think makes a good fitter?
Susan: Someone who cares and knows what’s out there and what the choices are. Knowing what the trends are in the fashion world also helps, because whether a woman has had surgery, or simply needs a bra that fits correctly, they all want to look good in their clothes.
Amoena: In the years you’ve been a fitter has anyone stood out?
Susan: Probably my friend Mary would be my choice. She’s been a good mentor and has a different vision of things. She’s a tough old broad. She’s been a widow since she was 36 with two little kids. She went back to school and raised those boys on her own. She has other health issues she’s had to deal with over the years. She was a big help, being a clinical person I could tap into. Her nursing skills and her friends really helped me. Her view of “nothing can beat you down if you don’t let it, & you can survive anything” has been a life lesson to me in more ways than I can count.
Amoena: When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Susan: For sure, tennis is a passion of mine. I also find it very relaxing to just float in the water, so since I have a pool I get to gaze at the water and birds and just let it all go. I also enjoy yoga since it provides physical and mental release.
Amoena: If there was no breast cancer and you weren’t a fitter, what would you want to be?
Susan: I’d still be doing what I’m doing. But I would just make the full turn to regular lingerie. And because I always have loved fashion, I might get more into clothing.
Amoena: Tell us something about Palatka.
Susan: Palatka is a hub in rural Florida just about an hour from Daytona, Jacksonville and Gainesville. Everybody goes through Palatka to get someplace else, but back in the 1800s it was a very popular destination. Things changed with the advent of other forms of travel, but the character of Palatka remains intact. I’m proud to call it home!