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Ellen Dolgen
Meet the Alloro Collection, the Fashion Brand that Fights Cancer
Healthy Living
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Menopause Mondays“When my surgeon told me two years ago that I had cancer in my left breast, I started to feel like I was on borrowed time,” says Laurel Kamen, now the co-founder of the Alloro Collection, a fashion brand for women who are suffering or have survived breast cancer.

Laurel had already fought (and won!) against two cancer diagnoses. On her third brush with the dreaded C word, however, she was devastated. But she was also brave. She resolved to take control over her future. “I opted to increase my odds and go for a double mastectomy, rather than the recommended single,” she says. She’s not alone in her decision. The rate for women choosing to remove both breasts when only one has cancer increased from 6.7 percent in 1997 to 24 percent in 2005, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Plus, while total mastectomy rates have increased 33 percent since 1998, immediate reconstruction rates have decreased 56 percent, according to research published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, Basically, that means every day there are more breast cancer survivors leading their lives without breasts–just like Laurel would be.

So on the night before her surgery, Laurel called her best friend–but not just for a sympathetic ear. Laurel had a business proposition for her. She wanted to launch a fashion collection of clothing and accessories for women dealing with breast cancer and treatment, be it surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. She knew her pending surgery would change how she looked and felt for some time–probably forever. As much as she hated going through her closet to find something to wear, she knew she would soon hate it even more–and she surely wasn’t the only woman out there with the conundrum. “So are you in?” Laurel asked.

“I’m in!” immediately responded her friend, Christine Irvin, an astute Wall Street veteran and artist. Christine later confessed that she would have replied with the same gusto had Laurel suggested opening a car wash (not Breaking Bad-style, of course!), but fortunately for the both of them, Laurel’s idea was one that would soon support thousands of breast cancer warriors–in style.

After undergoing a double mastectomy, Laurel learned that the surgery’s pain and discomfort were more intense–and widespread–than she had imagined. Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo recently found that 19.5 percent of women who undergo mastectomies for breast cancer experience long-lasting neuropathic pain–many of them suffering for ten years or more. During a mastectomy, nerve damage can occur, leading to neuromas (abnormal nerve growths where scar tissue and nerves grow together) and hypersensitivity, so that normally painless (or even pleasant!) stimuli around the chest, sides, and torso is perceived as painful, according to Mayo Clinic. What’s more, according to, radiation is associated with increased sensitivity of the skin, while chemotherapy can lead to widespread nerve damage that can result in pain, burning sensations, and tingling throughout the entire body, according to the American Cancer Society.

For Laurel–like many women of the women who have underwent breast cancer treatment–along with the physical pain following treatment came the psychological one. Her clothes didn’t fit like they used to, and finding fashions that made her feel beautiful was a painful process. It’s so important for breast cancer survivors to know how beautiful they are–whether they have two breasts, one breast, or none at all, Laurel says. They are still the gorgeous, phenomenal women they have always been. But some styles and clothing lines can make them feel anything but.

As Dr. Marie Pennanen, Laurel’s surgeon, recently wrote, “Breast cancer patients actively engaging in efforts which made them feel good about their appearance have better social and psychological quality of life and lower levels of depression.” For that reason, she noted, “doctors and nurses should… encourage patients to implement behaviors to improve or maintain their sense of physical attractiveness. This isn’t being vain, it’s being healthy.”

That’s where the Alloro Collection comes in. It strives to serve these and all women who are battling–or have won against–breast cancer. The line’s 20 diverse design elements address the challenges women face after treatment, taking into account both the physical and emotional challenges that come with treatment. The styles are beautiful and show the world just how beautiful the women wearing them are. “Breast cancer–any cancer–drains the color out of women’s lives,” Laurel says. “We simply want to restore that color with beautiful fabrics and designs that make women feel beautiful again so they can move forward–in style.”

Plus, the Alloro Collection strives to be sensitive to the financial toll that treatment takes on the women who must endure it. “Our goal was never just to sell clothing, but rather to find a way to raise awareness and give back to the community,” says Laurel, who notes that 25 percent of the collection’s profits go to cancer research and prevention organizations. The Alloro Collection’s first beneficiary is the Prevent Cancer Foundation, which works to advance the prevention and early detection of cancer through research and education initiatives.

So, this Breast Cancer Month, let’s show all of the amazingly strong and inspirational breast cancer warriors out there just how beautiful they are! The Alloro Collection is sold at trunk shows, fundraisers, and at Plus, you can enter to win this beautiful shimmering silk scarf the brand has donated for one lucky reader. When your friends ask you where you got your new styles, tell them what the Alloro Collection is really all about!

Remember: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

Photo Courtesy of

Healthy Living
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Cansurvivor is a term my oldest daughter coined for my recovery from breast cancer. After four surgeries, chemo and radiation, I was sent home with a pat on the back on my birthday, September 25, 1990. My daughter gave me a t-shirt with the words Cansurvivor printed on the front. After 23 years, I still wear that shirt when life weighs a bit heavy. It reminds me of all I have gone through to get to this moment and all the strength I have to meet whatever life dishes out.

I recently spent time with an old friend. Martha and I have been friends since we were kids, so the history is long and deep. She is finishing up her own round with breast cancer. Our bond deepened as I welcomed her to the sisterhood of survivors. Even after all these years, knowing what I know about the disease and the emotional havoc it plays, I wept with her. There are no words to express this grief, only heartfelt tears. Her rage, her sorrow, her darkness, are real and part of the journey. I was confident that she would come through this ordeal but if I had the ability, she would have been spared.

How do you tell your dearest friend that it will never be the same, knowing that is all she wants; some semblance of what was so that all the pain was somehow rewarded. I selfishly wept for myself as well. Tears for what I lost 23 years ago, a sadness that lies beneath the surface waiting to grab you by the throat and bring you once again to your knees. There is no living in denial. It is there everyday when you take a shower or dress. A reminder that this is not a breast enhancement but a reconstruction and will never be the same.

For breast cancer survivors, our wounds run deeper than the tissue that has been removed. It robs our very core, our identity, our self image as a woman, a mother, a wife. We have to learn to reconnect ourselves with our body that is now completely foreign. Nothing feels the same, looks the same or acts the same. It doesn’t fit in a bra, no cleavage, no bounce. We hide in our clothes rather than dress to impress. All of which, with time, we learn to live with, accept as best we can, and make a hell of a lot of lemonade.

Martha will survive. She is one of the toughest women I know. Welcome to the club, my sister. You are officially a Cansurvivor! And to all those who have walked this endless mile, you know the courage it takes to look cancer in the face and flash a winning smile.

Flickr image by Neo-grapher

Flickr image by Neo-grapher

Alternative Care for Breast Cancer
Healthy Living
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This is part five and my final week of blogging about breast cancer for the month of October. This week the subject is alternative care during treatments and after your treatments have ended. As mentioned in part four about help for breast cancer survivors, your oncologist may recommend alternative care. You of course may have to ask.


With my health insurance I buy a policy that gives me so much alternative care a year. It is wise to check with your health insurance carrier. If you enjoy alternative care you can often buy this coverage when you renew your policy for just a few dollars more per month.


Acupuncture, chiropractic care and naturopathic medicine are all tied into helping breast cancer survivors. Some clinics have a sliding scale for those without insurance coverage but have cancer.


From recommendation of my oncologist I started at an alternative clinic the same time I started my chemotherapy. I had acupuncture twice a week and met with a naturopath once a month. My ND gave me Chinese herbs that helped with some of my side effects. I had my oncology/radiation team, and my alternative teams helping me achieve breast cancer success!


Some people have a difficult time with the word survivor. After going through various surgeries, treatments and side effects, I totally embrace the word survivor. For many breast cancer patients the goal is to navigate and thrive to survivorship.

I am so very happy to be a 10-year breast cancer survivor. I am happy to write about breast cancer during the month of October. I hope some of this five part series helped some one or touched some one dealing with breast cancer.


Have you had alternative care? Has acupuncture worked for you? Do you see a Chiropractor or a Naturopathic doctor?


Help for Breast Cancer Survivors
Other Topics
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This is part four of my weekly blogs about breast cancer for the month of October.

In my previous blogs I spoke of awareness, preparedness and holly crap breast cancer happens. This week I want to talk about HELP. All breast cancer patients and survivors need help. The disease can truly be mind fogging and there is help to navigate your course.

Breast cancer support groups can be really helpful. Who knows more about what you are going through than other survivors? Trust me when I say most women on the other side of treatments and into survivorship are not judgmental of your choices in treatments or your reactions to the disease. The best support groups can be found from recommendations from your oncologist. Many are supported through the hospital. Some hospitals have a social worker that is available. Other hospitals have support groups for children and partners. The best way to find out is to ask your oncologist.

Not a talker? Don’t want to listen or share? No problem. Many on line sites are full of information. Of course finding the most reputable sites is tricky. Once again your oncologist can lead you to these sites once you ask. Many oncology offices give a manual with your diagnosis with lots of resources. Did you know that there is a resource to have your house cleaned for free? Yep it is somewhere listed in resources available to breast cancer patients.

Friends and family want to do something for you? Let them. No one wants a martyr! If they cook, let them make a meal or two for you. If you enjoy their company ask them to meet you after a chemo session or during the chemo session.

From my experience, there really can be too many soaps and lotions and not enough prepared meals!

Remember not everyone rises to the occasion just because you have breast cancer. You may have to tell your family that you will not be hosting Thanksgiving this year. As the weeks and months pass with your treatments you may become weaker but it may become yesterday news to family and friends. You must remind them! I have seen irreconcilable feelings between family and friends during an illness and treatment.

Have you ever helped a friend or loved one during their breast cancer journey?  Have you ever wished you could have helped or helped more a friend or loved one during their breast cancer treatments?

VN Editors
Stop hot flashes and hormonal night sweats with herbal and natural supplements for menopause
Healthy Living
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For women who seek to stop hot flashes and hormonal night sweats and other menopause symptoms without resorting to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or bio-identical hormones, there are a few non-prescription approaches to consider.

Dr. Holly Thacker, author of Recognizing and Treating Menopause Symptoms: A 50+ Woman’s Guide, states that, “None of these are approved by the FDA, and so you take a risk: we don’t know what the long-term effects may be. In addition, a remedy for hot flashes is not necessarily a solution to all menopause-related health changes. In other words, taking black cohosh might reduce hot flashes, but it won’t prevent bone loss or treat symptoms like vaginal dryness.

On the other hand, alternative remedies can be a wise choice for women who have blood clots, women who have had breast cancer, or women who are taking Tamoxifen or undergoing other breast cancer treatments. In general, for these women, the risks of hormone therapy may outweigh taking even short-term HT.”  One of the alternatives Dr. Thacker mentions to stop hot flashes and hormonal night sweats and other menopause symptoms is:

  • Black cohosh. Some randomized trials suggest that the herb black cohosh is a short-term treatment to stop hot flashes and hormonal night sweats. However, black cohosh’s effectiveness as a hot-flash remedy is debatable. It may reduce sweating, but it will not necessarily treat all your menopause symptoms. When a woman wants to try black cohosh, the recommended over-the-counter brand is Remifemin, from Germany. The German Commission E (similar to our country’s FDA) approves this form of black cohosh for use for up to six months to relieve hot flashes. Black cohosh and other herbs like valerian root have been associated with reports of liver toxicity, so long-term effects are a real concern.

As one member states, “One of the best natural alternatives to HRT is black cohosh. I used it for about 2 years and it curbed my hot flashes a lot. The version I get is combined with soy which is also good for menopause.”

Another remedy Dr. Thacker lists is:

  • Soy isoflavones. Plant estrogens found in soy foods are thought to have weak estrogen-like effects. Choose soy foods rather than supplements, and understand that not every woman’s body converts soy isoflavones into the estrogen-like substance equol. member Christa suggests, “I personally had good results with a daily smoothie made from soy milk, a tablespoon of ground flax seed, and some frozen berries. Yum!”

Dr. Thacker goes on to mention:

  • Flaxseed. This is certainly an important food to incorporate into your diet for the overall health benefits of omega-3 fats. Like soy foods, when it’s used to replace animal fats, it may help lower cholesterol levels. Flaxseed is available in whole-seed and oil forms.

According to member Elaine, “Studies show that middle-aged people who consumed omega-3 fats on a regular basis scored higher on memory tests. These fats can be found in flaxseed, salmon, sardines, tuna, and in fish oil supplements.”

Another alternative offered by Dr. Thacker in her health guide is:

  • Vitamin E. Taking 800 IU of vitamin E has been advocated to help hot flashes. A placebo-controlled, randomized study evaluated vitamin E supplements (800 IU/day for four weeks) for 120 breast cancer survivors with hot flashes and found that compared to the placebo, it decreased hot flashes slightly.

Not all women will receive hot flash relief from these remedies, but when compared to hormone therapy, natural remedies such as black cohosh offer few downsides, and are certainly worth a try.

For more helpful information, download our free special report 5 Proven Remedies to Reduce Hot Flashes During Menopause.