Meet Our Fit Specialist of the Month
Get to know your fitter! Amoena highlights a certified mastectomy fitter each month.
Celina Sands, A Ladies Place
Summerfield, FL -- November 2013
Celina Sands grew up an Air Force brat. Anyone familiar with military life fully understands exactly what she means. Her childhood was spent constantly moving from one place to another, so California, Texas, Oklahoma, even Japan were all home for a brief time. There were six kids in her family, and moving once a year was definitely difficult. Celina is quick to point out, however, that it taught her a lot about people and different cultures, since she met people from all walks of life. This has served her well over the years, particularly in terms of her career. Her initial adult role was as a wife and mother. When her first two children got older she began working in the healthcare field because she enjoyed helping people. When her first marriage ended she moved to Florida, remarried and had two more children. Her role as a fitter (as she puts it) just sort of fell into her lap.
Amoena: How did you become a fitter?
Celina: My mother-in-law was a breast cancer survivor and was one of only two people I knew who had ever had breast cancer. So I was sensitive to what women go through with breast cancer, but it was still pretty foreign to me. I eventually got a job working at a place as a customer service rep. I liked it a lot because it allowed me to do what I love – help people. Initially I was in the Durable Medical Equipment trade. Eventually they asked me to be a fitter. I have to admit at first it was very hard for me emotionally because it would just break my heart when someone cried. Luckily, I got some training and did some fittings, which helped, but I still had that feeling like I was just not good at being a fitter. I felt flustered, like I was fumbling around. I wanted them to be relaxed and comfortable but I was a mess, so how could I expect them to feel relaxed and calm? As I matured in the job, I found that I enjoyed educating women, and finally sort of came into my own and was comfortable. I like to tell them about new products that are available. Even if they are a 20-year survivor, when I have them in the fitting room, I still show them what’s new this year. I want them to be aware of what’s available because things change constantly. I’ve been a fitter now for 11 years, and it seems like second nature to me now.
Amoena: Tell us a little bit about A Ladies Place.
Celina: A Ladies Place is a boutique within a DME store. The store is divided in half, so although we have a lot of medical equipment there is also a private boutique. I was hired by this company seven years ago to help them get this boutique up and going. It’s my baby and I’m very proud of the results. When we started, we didn’t even have a fitting room, just a bathroom and a box of products. It was quite the change from the company I had come from, that had three fitting rooms and lots of product. I had moments wondering if I could get it going. I was not only doing fittings but teaching them how to bill, how to order, everything you can think of. It was kind of like starting my own company, so it was quite a challenge! Fortunately, when you love something and want to make it work, you give it all you’ve got. It took time but it flourished. Now I have two private fitting rooms. Since I’m the manager I also do the marketing, place the advertising and even do the mailings. But I love being so hands on! At the moment I have another fitter who is in training who works with me, and the owner, who is nearing retirement, is also a certified fitter.
Amoena: What do you carry?
Celina: We carry mastectomy bras, and breast forms, bathing suits, wigs, head covers, compression sleeves, compression stockings, some sleepwear, and Alra skincare products.
Amoena: What do you think makes A Ladies Place special?
Celina: We have excellent customer service. If a woman comes into the boutique we automatically introduce ourselves and greet them. If they want help, we’re there and if they just want to browse that’s fine too. We always try to personalize the experience to the woman’s needs.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena bra and why?
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena form and why?
Celina: I really can't choose a favorite. I love the Amoena line, because the quality of the product is second to none.
Amoena: What is your favorite part of being a fitter?
Celina: My favorite part is having the one-on-one time with the customer. It’s not only doing the fitting but getting to know who they are – their story – their life. It’s kind of like going to the hairdresser, where you find yourself talking about what’s going on in your life. That’s basically what goes on in the fitting room. It’s all about building relationships, not just about products, but emotionally being there for them.
Amoena: What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?
Celina: The most important thing is that you have to listen well. That is what I learned in the very early part of my career when I felt so frustrated and like I didn’t know what I was doing. As I became better at it I found I was listening better. I’ve learned it’s not always what I was going to suggest, sometimes I just have to appreciate where a woman is coming from emotionally, so I can help her.
I also think a good fitter knows about the products she is offering AND she remembers that it’s VERY important to be patient. The women can become very frustrated, so I make sure to reassure them whenever possible so they know I’m here for them and we’re not on the clock!
Amoena: In your time as a fitter, you most certainly have had memorable women come into your shop. Any inspiring stories you’d like to share?
Celina: I’ve got one that stands out in my mind. I had this one lady who was in her early 30s and was diagnosed just after having her children. She had a mastectomy, but because she had young kids, she was constantly on the go. One day when she was out shopping with her two little kids she looked down and noticed she had somehow managed to lose her prosthesis in the store. She said she died laughing, because she couldn’t believe she hadn’t even noticed. On top of that, she was embarrassed because their customer service person was a guy, so when she told him she’d lost her prosthesis, he had that look on his face like WHOA what kind of prosthesis are we talking about? At which point she was even more mortified.
She went on to tell me another story of losing her prosthesis in a snow bank and not finding it until spring. My advice to her was she might want to think about getting a bra with pockets!
Amoena: When you aren't working, what do you like to do?
Celina: My husband and I like to fish. We also enjoy hanging out at the pool with the two younger kids (Joel is 9 and Bailey is 5). I love spending time with my older children as well (Corey is 24 and Laticia is 21). I never know from one weekend to the next whether we’re going to relax or be on the go, and I like that!
Amoena: If you weren’t a fitter, what do you think you would be doing?
Celina: I probably would be working in the school system, which once again goes back to caregiving. There’s nothing I enjoy doing more.