Healing by Helping Others Heal
I was at a wonderful point in my life when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was in love with a man I planned to marry as well as his two children. I was enjoying a successful career as an artist. I had a rich social life filled with amazing friends and family. And ironically, I was in the best shape of my life. To say that the diagnosis took me by storm is an understatement. But it takes everyone by storm. No one expects to be diagnosed with cancer, even if one fears it. And no one can fully prepare for the moment when terror, grief, anger, denial, and panic swirl together as one massive tidal wave of overwhelm, throwing you into an abyss of unknown and threatening to take away life as you knew it.
Thankfully, the life I had constructed for myself helped prop me up through the experience, and many fortunate blessings came my way (such as learning that my breast cancer was not invasive as my doctors originally suspected). I underwent surgery, and then another surgery, and after that, thankfully, I needed no further treatment. I knew I was one of the lucky ones – that to be diagnosed early and to not have to face chemotherapy was incredibly fortuitous–but even still, the ordeal rocked me. Being diagnosed with breast cancer was a haunting event that demonstrated that life could change on a dime, that feeling healthy can be deceptive, and that we really have no idea what lies ahead. My therapist at the time marveled at how present I was, suggested that my ability to sit with the fragility of my mortality was akin to an enlightened state. But even though that darkness was accompanied by immense moments of appreciation and gratitude, I was changed. Fear of recurrence or another proverbial rug being pulled out from under me was omnipresent.
It wasn’t until I identified an issue in the healing process when I started to gain footing again (though I wouldn’t understand this until years later). Superficial as it may sound, I started to realize that undergarments for post-operative women were lacking in the consumer market, if available at all. Medical experts were equally at a loss as to what to recommend. Never mind the idea of adorning your incision sites and fake breasts with something pretty. There were no functional, comfortable, and attractive lingerie to nurture women in recovery.
Upon identifying this need, I set out to understand whether building an apparel company for post-operative women might be a viable business idea. I reached out to women in my support group, to friends I knew who had been through breast cancer, to friends of friends, family friends, and so on. I hosted sushi and champagne parties focused on lingerie needs, all of which inevitably turned into some of the most honest dialogues about boobs, life, and death I had ever encountered. I was starting to build a tribe without realizing it.
Five years later, Everviolet is now a live brand, thriving in the world like I am. We offer lingerie and loungewear for all stages of recovery from breast cancer, other cancers, and body changes due to pregnancy and aging, and the women I continue to meet through the business have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. But what creating
Everviolet really did was help me heal. I had no idea that finding purpose–paying my good prognosis forward and supporting others facing health challenges–would provide meaning and a context for what I had endured. By working with women in all stages of recovery from all types of cancer, I found a sense of community and belonging that I didn’t feel before my diagnosis. In the end, it has been through my motivation to serve others, and the opportunity to take a difficult experience and use it for good, that I have ultimately been able to turn some of the fear and darkness into hope and light.
As a woman who had never given much thought to lingerie prior, I find it ironic (read: hilarious) to think that bras have given me purpose. But they have. Helping women find themselves in bodies they no longer recognize as their own and facilitating ways for them to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin is paramount to their emotional and psychological healing. Whether it’s comfort someone seeks or a flair of femininity or elegance, if we are constantly being reminded of the ways our bodies change as a result of discomfort or pain, we are patients, not women. Providing garments that allow women to retain or renew a sense of self and femininity in the face of change is my mission now–and ultimately, helping them heal as they have helped me. #BEAUTYOFCHANGE®