Bringing back the Blog!


Aaaand I’m back! It’s been awhile! What have we been doing? Well, we finally found a new facility where our manufacturing will be done permanently. It’s larger, has office space, and can handle more production. Our Larissa Post-Surgical Bra pattern is finalized and we’re starting to work with more hospitals and clinics, which is exciting! Our next step is to produce it in black as we have had many requests. In addition to working with the military, we are now producing products for the Air Force Academy and correctional facilities. This helps fund and grow heart&core.


In the coming year we are excited about upcoming conferences where we can showcase our bras and connect with more nurses and doctors. We also plan to bring back our sports bra line! The focus for heart&core now is on health and wellness and the products we have to help support women’s needs, relating to surgery and exercise. We have worked hard to perfect our post-surgical bras for women to recover in after breast, heart, or lung surgery and our sports bras will have some updates improving the comfort and support of them. We are in the process of testing samples so stay tuned for more information!


I look forward to sharing more information with you and am always open to thoughts and suggestions for topics, questions, etc., so please share them with us. You can email us at or reach us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram—and if you aren’t already following us, please do!


A Sisterly Video BlogAug. 4th

Lara and I did first video blog together! We are trying to help build awareness on the importance of having the right bra after a heart procedure or heart surgery. Please listen in and share—thank you!

Listening To Our CustomersJul. 10th

In recent months we have been asked by some hospitals and clinics to make a bra that offers more compression for women who have had a double mastectomy.  The Bonita Bra works if they have immediate reconstruction, but not all women do or can, and we want to be supportive of them and their choices.  We had originally designed another post surgical style bra and are tweaking it to make it more simple for hospitals and clinics.  This will entail it being generically sized, and no cups, but still offering comfort, compression, and drain management by having the Prody Drainage Bulb Holder built into it.

At first this seemed like it might be a big undertaking, but after reviewing the options out there and realizing how we could improve upon them we are excited to move forward!  We are having samples made to test with patients and get feedback from the doctors and nurses.  This will allow us to confirm we have created another product that will suit women well and work for the institutions that need it to be all encompassing.

That being said, we are continuing to build our sales for the Bonita Bra as it definitely has its place as well.  For women that are having heart surgery, lung surgery, reconstructive breast surgery, augmentation or a reduction, the Bonita Bra will suit them best as it offers the proper comfort and support needed.

This is happening a little sooner than originally planned, but sometimes you just need to go with it-and we’ve definitely had to learn about that in many aspects of this business!

Stay tuned as we will be sharing the features and benefits of the new bra shortly!

Thank you for your continued support and we would love to hear from you about how to better support you!!






Jen is married to Travis (sometimes referred to as her third child) and has 2 children, Emmett, 11, and Greta, 8, and a crazy dog with 8 lives left, Hayley. They reside in Minneapolis. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, laughing, and swimming and running, which helps to balance out her love for chocolate and wine.






My Wish For CancerJul. 2nd

Today I was going to write about our next steps for heart&core, it was going to be about a new product and be a happy blog, but I decided to wait.  I saw a friend today whose sister is facing cancer once again.  As if once wasn’t enough?!  I listened to her talk about the difficulties and how her sister is the primary caretaker for their mom and all the complications that are to come.  I cried.  My emotions were flooded with those of my own-losing my mom and all we went through.  The anger. The sadness.  The stress.  The unknown.

I then thought about all the mean things I would do to cancer.  I wish it would take some kind of physical form that we could all take a bat too and beat the…well, you know…It would be a big party afterwards celebrating it being destroyed, and everyone got to have their moment with cancer-cursing it, beating it, and showing it who is boss.  Women and men face cancer every day and show it who is boss, but on the inside it still hurts-physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So today I send out a BIG F U to cancer-I wish you would die. Forever.  And now my rant is done.  Go give your loved ones a hug and count your blessings..and as I always say-find something to laugh about-it will calm the stress, anguish and pain..even if just for a moment.


Jen is married to Travis (sometimes referred to as her third child) and has 2 children, Emmett, 11, and Greta, 8, and a crazy dog with 8 lives left, Hayley. They reside in Minneapolis. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, laughing, and swimming and running, which helps to balance out her love for chocolate and wine.






Building Awareness on Post Surgical Needs for WomenJun. 25th

Until it happens to you or a loved one, most women don’t realize they will need a bra to recover in after breast, lung, and heart surgery.  There are so many things to think about and the doctors and nurses have a lot of information to cover as well, so sometimes it is a missing piece in the puzzle. That being said, your doctor may or may not give you a bra post surgery, they may use an Ace Bandage, or they may simply give you something you don’t like and isn’t comfortable.  This is why it is important for you to know that you do need one and whether this is about you or a loved one, make sure they have a bra that will offer proper support, be comfortable and when applicable, manage the drains.

Speaking of drains, where are you supposed to put those things?!  Do you use a safety pin?  Stick them in your pockets?  Wear a lanyard?  These are all options presently being used in the U.S. in hospitals, clinics, and at the patient’s home.  They are cumbersome and in some cases dangerous-think about using a safety pin while being heavily medicated-not a good idea! There are better options!  We use the Prody Drainage Bulb Holder, which is built into our bra so that you have the benefits of being properly supported, feeling comfortable and managing your drains.

There are many options out there, please make sure you or your loved one goes into surgery knowing when they come out they have what they need-a supportive post surgical bra being one of them! Typically bras are given to women recovering after breast cancer surgery, but many are not given one after heart or lung surgery, as it is not covered by insurance.  Most often a post surgical bra can be covered by insurance, but it is important to check to make sure, as well as find out what you can spend on one.  There are many fitting shops that sell post surgical bras and can process your insurance too.

I hope this helps give you some insight on the importance of having a bra for post surgery support.  Please let us know if you have any questions, need help finding a fitting shop, or just want to share your experience-we would love to hear from you!

I have included a picture of a drainage bulb so you can get a better understanding of what it looks like and why you need to have a way to manage them i.e. what to attach them to!

Drainage Bulb


Jen is married to Travis (sometimes referred to as her third child) and has 2 children, Emmett, 11, and Greta, 8, and a crazy dog with 8 lives left, Hayley. They reside in Minneapolis. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, laughing, and swimming and running, which helps to balance out her love for chocolate and wine.






heart&core-a new focus


I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had blogged until I logged in to see my last post-yikes!  Over the last year we have taken some time to figure out what we are doing…ever had that day when you wanted to quit or possibly run your head against the wall?!  This has been quite the challenge for us-very educating, met lots of great people, lots of ups and downs, and we came to realize we needed to focus on one product-our Bonita Post Surgical Bra, named after our mom.  There are so many needs unmet by the existing products in the post surgical market when it comes to women and recovery so we decided to take a step back from the sports line and focus on the Bonita Bra.

During this time we have expanded in the market, working with more hospitals, clinics, and fitting shops, which has been great. Lara and I are continuing to work on gaining exposure and building awareness so any help or connections you may have is greatly appreciated! It definitely is all about who you know-it has helped us get our foot in the door many times!

As I said above we want to build awareness, this isn’t just about our product, but also helping women understand that if they are going to have surgery, they are going to need a bra to recover in and the one they get from their doctor or the hospital, may not be the most comfortable or supportive one that will fit their needs.

If you have a friend who is going to be having breast, heart, or lung surgery, or any type of shoulder surgery, they will need a bra that is easy to get on and off, offer drain management (when applicable), be comfortable, and support them properly too!  There are many options out there, but hopefully they will choose the Bonita Post-Surgical Bra!


Cheers to National Nurses Week!


My mom in happier times with Greta, me, and Lara

Nurses are amazing, truly, for all they do, put up with and make happen—and most of it generally goes unnoticed. The nurses that took care of my mom were so dedicated and even did things for her that they weren’t supposed to—like getting her up out of bed without the help of another nurse, giving her extra treats (even in those final days my mom loved her chocolate!) and just watching out for her best interests. I remember the day we had to go tell the staff at the care facility she’d recently been at that she had passed away.  They were as emotional as we were, and I thought, I wonder how they can do this kind of work? It must be so hard to have to say goodbye to patients you have bonded with, but somehow they do.

I reached out to some nurses I know to find out what they like best about their job and it made me realize that they truly have a love for their job, tough days and all.

“I have 3 favorite things about being a nurse. First, is the relationships I am able to make, not just with patients, but their families, and my coworkers as well. I have had the most unique experiences with people through this profession. Second, I enjoy the challenges nursing brings to my life. There is always something to learn every single day. Finally, being a nurse is a broad term. You can go anywhere you want- from sitting at a desk to flying in the air and going to save people on the ground. There is so much variety. I love being a nurse!” – Kat Kinseth, RN CEN Adult Emergency Department at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa

“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is connecting and learning from others.  I may take care of patients who have the same diagnosis, but everyone handles the situation differently, and I honestly learn something new about people or life in general, everyday. Of course, not all the things I learn are so-called “good,” for example, violence, suicide, etc, but it definitely makes me stronger as a person and professional.” – Brandee Kuznia, a Med-Surg RN at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, North Dakota

“The best part of my job is the inspiration I get, on a daily basis, from my patients and their families…such hope and strength in the face of some great adversity.  An excellent reminder to enjoy life each day!” – Theresa Britt, a Radiation Therapist at Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, Iowa

“You’ve never truly lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – A favorite quote of Wendie Snyder, a Clinical Nurse Supervisor at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania

I am amazed at the compassion and love for meeting new people that keeps these nurses going strong. They, along with all of the other nurses, are who we honor this week and to them we say THANK YOU! If you know a nurse, make sure to wish them a Happy National Nurses Week!

Normally I include a picture of Hayley at the end of my blog, but I thought I would share a picture of my niece, Brandee Kuznia, who has two adorable pups that she enjoys when she isn’t working as a nurse :)

Brandee, Gypsy, and Martini!

Interview with Dr. Pawel Stachowicz, Part 3: Deciphering a Good Surgeon from a Bad One


My mom loved shopping the sales, but she also splurged from time to time because, for some things—the really important things—you get what you pay for. This is especially true when it comes to choosing the right surgeon for you.

Over the years I have heard about people, including celebrities, having poorly done plastic/cosmetic surgery, leaving them with disfigurement, long-term health issues, and even death. Usher’s ex-wife suffered from cardiac arrest after having liposuction done in Brazil, and Kanye West’s mom died as a result of complications from her cosmetic surgery procedures. And some may still not know they have had bad plastic surgery like Joan Rivers, and Meg Ryan…oops, did I just write that?! I know I’m not saying anything that would shock anyone. The point being that many people don’t research the surgeon to make sure they are board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (FYI: There is only ONE board certification in plastic and reconstructive surgery so BEWARE OF WORDING LIKE Board of Cosmetic Surgery, Facial Plastic Surgery and other similarly worded but not official certifications). Some people haven’t checked if their surgeon has the proper experience. Any two-for-one deals are probably a sure way to set yourself up for disaster! Seriously, I was told there is a surgeon offering implants at a two for one cost….and he does this in a mall!

So here’s some valuable information for you to consider:

  • In the U.S., anyone can call themselves a plastic surgeon as long as they have finished medical school and have completed one year of residency. They can operate in their own office and there is no mandatory oversight.
  • And that one year in residency? It doesn’t have to be focused on surgery!
  • Outpatient surgery centers don’t have to be accredited, therefore they don’t require any oversight AND they don’t have to have admitting privileges to any hospitals—BIG RED FLAG!
  • Hospitals have to approve a doctor before allowing them to do surgery on hospital grounds due to malpractice insurance and regulations, so they aren’t going to let just anyone in!
  • Cosmetic surgeries aren’t covered by insurance, therefore those doctors that aren’t qualified to do these procedures don’t have to worry because it is an elective surgery so insurance coverage is non-issue.
  • Doctors need to be board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and this requires 7–8 years of training in surgery (general surgery typically first and then plastics).
  • There are approximately 5,000 board certified plastic surgeons in the U.S. and Canada, but if you look at the number of doctors doing cosmetic surgery, it is much higher than that—so do your research!!

Dr. Stachowicz says the bottom line is make sure the doctor is board certified and has admitting privileges into their local hospital because if they don’t, and something goes wrong, your life could be at stake! Not worth saving a few bucks to have death knocking at your door or not have the ability to correct even a minor complication.

Please let us know if you have any questions that we can ask Dr. Stachowicz. We greatly appreciate his time and giving us the facts. I have learned a lot from this interview and I am writing an article that will hopefully be published so that others can read about the facts too!

As always, I end with Hayley, who is all smiles today!

Happy dogs smile too!



My Interview with Dr. Stachowicz, Part 2: Good Information About Reconstructive Surgery!


My high school graduation in 2002...ok, 1992 ;)

Education was important to my mom (and dad), and she was always supportive, telling us to try our best, even when that meant supporting a C- in math… (Side bar: my sister, Lara, always got straight A’s in school.) So when I came home with my C- in geometry, my parents were excited and wanted to celebrate. I, of course, being the older, loving sister, like to joke and say they told her she always got straight A’s so it was nothing to celebrate. Lara greatly appreciated it ;)

Learning about what was interesting to us and choosing a career that was going to make us happy was reinforced in my household. In my interview with Dr. Stachowicz (an MD and Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, at Authentic Plastic Surgery in Minneapolis), it is clear he chose a career that makes him happy and that he shares his wealth of knowledge so that each patient can make an informed decision for themselves.

Dr. Stachowicz and I discussed what he prefers to do with a reconstructive patient. He likes to put in tissue expanders and use AlloDermR (scaffolding of collagen, adds thickness and strength) immediately after the mastectomy surgery. It takes approximately 30 minutes per side. Why do it this way? One can always take the expanders out “without burning any bridges.” Dr. Stachowicz also stated you don’t want a patient to be under anesthesia for too long because it can increase collateral damage. Lastly, if the patient needs radiation, the prep work has been done by preserving the pockets (made by the tissue expanders and AlloDermR). Radiation changes tissue forever, and in radiated tissue, the healing process always takes longer and is less effective in fighting infection. Due to these issues, radiation delays the reconstructive process and a patient should wait about six months after the last radiation treatment. Once it comes time to do the second stage reconstructive surgery, there are two potential options (depending on the patient): implants or their own tissue, i.e. flap. Some women may be a candidate for the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous) flap or other versions of it. In the case of a TRAM flap, it means tissue is taken from their abdominal area to reconstruct their breasts instead of having implants. This is a longer process (can be 6–8 hours), which is why he prefers to do it at a separate time from the mastectomy surgery.

Another topic related to the reconstructive surgery is why Dr. Stachowicz does not find surprising that many of his patients are considering doing a bliateral prophylactic mastectomy vs. a single mastectomy. A prophylactic mastectomy is proactively removing the noncancerous breast. As people live longer, they will still have to get mammograms for the healthy breast in the future. Many women find it stressful and worrisome. The doctors are also on high alert—”sensitized”—with them because of their history, and they will be very proactive about doing biopsies, which again, causes stress for the patient. I had never thought about it that way before, but completely understand why women would want to do that to avoid future stress, and possible multiple biopsies, which does affect the quality of life.

I think I stated this in my previous blog post, but this would be good information to share with someone you know who has been diagnosed so they can make an informed decision. They are overwhelmed with a life-changing diagnosis and it is important that they know what their options are so they can do what is best for them. Please let me know if you have any questions that you want me to ask Dr. Stachowicz or have any comments to share. 

Again, here’s Dr. Stachowicz’s information: Email:, Phone: 612.360.6466 and Facebook: Authentic Plastic Surgery, LLC (where he shares his own stories and other good information!) And please let us know your thoughts and opinions too—it always helps to share!

Next week I will be sharing information with you regarding how to choose your plastic surgeon—believe it or not, there are a lot of “surgeons” out there that aren’t board-certified or even surgeons by training, which is scary!

The "look away" makes Hayley look more serious or...professional?! ;)

Second opinions


The last thing my mom wanted to do was go on chemo, like any other person of course, but my mom was especially proud of her thick, beautiful head of hair, and she couldn’t imagine not having it. We even joked with her about how she would have to get it thinned out at her haircuts because it was so thick, meanwhile I was thinking of using that horse shampoo—Mane n’ Tail—to make mine thicker! When my mom found out she had to have chemo, she decided she wanted to get a second opinion. She had an excellent doctor in Des Moines, Dr. Robert Shreck, but started to also seek the advice of another doctor, a breast cancer specialist at the University of Iowa, Dr. Alexandra Thomas. The two doctors would communicate from time-to-time as well, making sure they understood each others’ thoughts about my mom’s prognosis and how to handle it. I was very impressed by them because some doctors might not appreciate another doctor’s opinion.

I recently interviewed Dr. Pawel Stachowicz, an MD and Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, at Authentic Plastic Surgery in Minneapolis. He is not only very detailed in his answers (in layman’s terms so I can understand!) but it is obvious his bedside manner is that of a caring man who only wants the best for his patients, even adding a little humor when appropriate :) And we all know humor is needed during some of these tough times in life!

Dr. Stachowicz discussed several topics with me, including second opinions. He included some interesting information about second opinions and how important and beneficial they can be for both the patient and the doctor. Here are his thoughts:

  • If a doctor gets upset or offended by a patient going to get a second opinion, then don’t go to him/her. Why would he/she be threatened by it?
  • A doctor can be focused on one aspect of a problem, but there may be other important pieces to the puzzle, which were missed. In complex situations, another point of view may be very refreshing so sometimes it is good to have more than one opinion.
  • Sometimes a patient remembers more at a second opinion appointment, for example, the patient had two C-sections (which means a tram flap can’t be done) and might change what the first doctor would have suggested. In a case like this, a second opinion will add to the accuracy and may help to refine the plan.
  • Patients tend to ask more questions the second time as they learn more about their diagnosis and options, so returning for a follow up consult with the original MD can be more productive.
  • Patients should have a good level of comfort with the doctor. On average, a doctor will spend almost one year with the patient, with a minimum of 6–9 months if everything goes well, so that relationship is important.

I appreciated Dr. Stachowicz keeping it simple and to the point. This makes information about subjects, such as second opinions, easy to digest and to keep in mind—for you and for your loved ones during this process. I have more to share about my interview with him, and will do so in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you would like to contact him, here is his information:

Email:, Phone: 612.360.6466 and Facebook: Authentic Plastic Surgery, LLC (where he shares his own stories and other good information!)

Please let us know your thoughts and opinions too—it always helps to share!


On a completely different note, I came into the living room the other day to find my dog Hayley laying on the ottoman wearing my daughter Greta’s Hello Kitty earmuffs on her head! No one else was home so I have no idea how this happened… Maybe my mom thought I could use a little humor?!

How in the world does a dog put on earmuffs?!