Meet Our Fit Specialist of the Month
Get to know your fitter! Amoena highlights a certified mastectomy fitter each month.
Patty Petersen -- McKinney Prosthetics
Gurnee, IL -- March, 2014
Patty Petersen is a transplanted New Jersey native who has called Illinois home since she got out of the Navy in 1980. Her career path includes everything from working in a neonatal nursery, to interior design, office management – even a service relating to dialysis. Although she was hired by McKinney Prosthetics as their office administrator and business manager, for the past two years she has also worn the hat of mastectomy fitter.
The company’s venture into mastectomy products and fittings came about in a very circuitous way, as Patty relays. “My boss was on a plane and a woman sitting next to him needed a lymphedema sleeve, so he helped her get one. Although he’d had someone doing fittings in the past, it had been a few years since McKinney had offered that service. As a result of his experience on the plane, he asked me if I’d be interested in becoming a fitter. Since I’m sort of like a sponge and want to learn everything possible, I went to the Amoena class to get certified, and I fell in love with the work!”
The Advocate Condell Medical Center in Gurnee has recently opened a new breast center, so Patty took on the role of fitter for the hospital last December. She will be seeing women on Mondays and Fridays. At the time of our interview, she had been sidelined by a broken femur, but she is thrilled to be expanding the services McKinney offers their community, and looks forward to making sure women with breast cancer know they have lots of choices when it comes to bras and prosthetics.
Amoena: Tell us a little bit about McKinney Prosthetics..
Patty: McKinney started with Ray McKinney 40 years ago. He sold his practice after about 30 years and moved to Arizona. In 2002 he came back and we opened McKinney in Gurnee in 2003. A year ago he sold the business to his son, Michael McKinney.
Amoena: What do you think makes McKinney unique?
Patty: I would say we really do our utmost when it comes to customer service by taking care of our patients in a timely manner and giving them the options of new technology. Our main business is prosthetics limbs. We oversee everything personally, beginning with consultation and evaluation, and then on to design, manufacturing, and fitting. Each patient deals with only one practitioner and the entire fitting process can be as short as one to three days. We believe in only one patient at a time!
I believe that being able to help a patient to fulfill their lives in the best way possible is what sets us apart. That’s why we stay in business and why we get a lot of return and new patients. We are always working harder to improve. When we added the mastectomy fittings we kept this same commitment to our patients. We are in a good area to assist women in many parts of Illinois. We even go to people’s homes if they have problems getting to us.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena bra and why?
Patty: I would tell you I used to love the Mona, well I still do, but one of my new favorites is the Isadora because it provides support without the underwire. I also like it because it’s feminine! Amoena has improved the look of mastectomy bras so much. Their bras make women feel feminine again. Most women who put the Isadora on it love the way it looks.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena form and why?
Patty: I don’t have a lot of storage space so I stock the Natura Light, which works very well for a lot of women. I just started carrying the new Energy Light and I love it! It’s such a great form because it’s asymmetrical so it can go on either side. Women who work out love it because it stays cool.
Amoena: What is your favorite part of being a fitter?
Patty: Meeting the people and talking with them and bonding woman to woman. I’m an open person so making them feel good about themselves again really makes me love my job. Seeing their faces when they give me that hug, I know I made somebody happy that day.
Amoena: What are some of the challenges of being a fitter?
Patty: Some of the surgeries you see. There are women who come in and they are concave, which means it is more difficult to find them the right form and bra. This is mostly older women who had their surgeries years ago.
Monica, the nurse navigator from the hospital, has started sending me newer patients so they can get the post-op camis. I’m amazed at how many women didn’t even know those existed. I think if you start the relationship prior to surgery it really helps to form a bond, and makes the process after surgery that much easier. They already know what to expect.
I am hoping when I’m more involved with the hospital I will have the opportunity to see some surgeries so I will know more about it. I want to be a bit more involved. Again, the more I learn the more I feel I can offer to these women.
Amoena: What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?
Patty: I didn’t realize there were so many different surgeries. Thankfully, when I took the classes at Amoena, they presented women who have had mastectomies, so we had real models to use for our fitter training. All of that was very new to me. I think I was most surprised at how easy it came to me. People say I’m a natural, but it’s because I feel so natural when I’m with them. I’m not afraid to touch them. I think many women who have had a mastectomy wonder “is anyone ever going to touch me again?” I think breast cancer is every woman’s nightmare. I believe I’m lucky because if it happened to me now it wouldn’t be so bad, I’ve learned they survive and they go on with their lives. I would feel okay about it. This work has taught me it wouldn’t be the end, thanks to companies like Amoena, you can still look nearly the same as you did before.
Amoena: What do you think makes a good fitter?
Patty: Listening is number one. It’s important to sit and talk at first. I tell them we need to chat a bit so I can find out what has happened to them. I find out about their family, are they married, do they have kids, do they run, you know, anything that will help them know they are being heard and that will help me know better who they are.
It’s important to listen to their story. Letting them say how they found out they had breast cancer helps women to talk about what they’ve encountered.
Secondly, just trying to make them happy is so important. I have women who insist they are one size and I measure them and they are not that size. Nine times out of ten I wind up being right, but I give them the opportunity to prove it to themselves. I think it’s my job to help them feel they have gained some control again.
Amoena: Over the years you must have had women who either touched your heart or made you laugh. Can you think of someone who sort of stands out? If so, can you share a story about why?
Patty: A woman came to me back in December with her husband. She was going to have surgery on her left side, and was crying in the waiting room. I brought her into the dressing room and we chatted about everything. She was there to pick up a camisole that day. I fitted her and gave her one. I listened to her story. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen because they wanted to do a biopsy on the other side as well. She ended up not having the surgery in December. I just saw her last Friday and she had eventually had a bilateral mastectomy. I told her I knew she was going to do alright when I first met her. I had assured both she and her husband they would be okay. Her husband told me he knew the minute I took her into the back room she would be fine. She told me, “I felt so good when I left you that day I wasn’t scared anymore.”
Amoena: When you aren't working, what do you like to do?
Patty: I golf. I garden. I like to spend as much time with my grandkids (Emily, who is eight and Chris, who is six) as possible. I love to travel, so I take mini-vacations with the kids. I love having dinner with friends too. I’m sociable, so I enjoy the company of people. I’m also single, so lots of people, my son included, have told me I should do Match.com. I tried it a couple of years ago, and it felt like more work than anything I’ve done in my life. Everyone thinks if you are alone it’s the end of the world, but I’m not only adjusted to living by myself, I actually enjoy it!
When I broke my femur everyone thought I’d have a horrible time because I have 16 stairs I have to climb. But I rolled up rugs, I got my walker, I got a wheelchair – and I’m doing just fine!