Keep getting innudated with mail to join a wine club. Never wanted to until I got what sounds like a real deal from the Wall Street Journal Wine Club. Has anyone joined one, particularly WSJ, and what has been your experience?
“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 BreastCancer.org, 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 allorocollection.com. Plus, you can enter to win this beautiful shimmering silk scarf the brand has donated for one lucky EllenDolgen.com 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 http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
Many vibrant women have learned life lessons from Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp, two characters made iconic by the one and only Julie Andrews. But even this famous Dame can stand to learn a few life lessons of her own. What can she learn from everyday vibrant women who aren’t famous?
If you’ve ever dwelt on a failed relationship or held on to that size 4 dress you won’t ever get into again, you know that looking back can be damaging. Spend too much time dwelling on what has been, and you won’t enjoy the here and now. It’s a lesson that many vibrant women have learned painfully.
It may be one that Julie Andrews needs to learn. She was forced to cut a Broadway run short in 1997, and suffered a botched vocal cord surgery that greatly reduced her famous soprano range and altered her singing voice. Andrews has not sounded quite the same since, though she did sing on-screen again in the 2004 Princess Diaries sequel.
Now, she is being treated by a doctor in an experimental procedure involving synthetic vocal cords. Andrews got involved in the organization through a charity she supports, and could be one of the first patients to benefit from new technology that synthesizes the vibration of a natural voice box.
The procedure could bring back her famous voice…or it may not. Sometimes, chasing the past isn’t such a good idea. Every vibrant woman has to decide for herself if an operation to bring back the past is worth the risk…even the famous vibrant women.
When you think of someone who is classy and beautiful and well-spoken and smart, it’s easy to think Julie Andrews. She’s famous for playing royal characters and for bringing a hint of royalty to everything she does. Her classic good looks, her rich voice and her perfect carriage seem to set her apart.
That makes it a little bit hard for other vibrant women to relate. Julie Andrews keeps her short hair perfectly cut and styled, she’s never without a pair of fantastic earrings and she’s always dressed for an elegant cup of tea in the finest of establishments. Where are her sweatpants, her stray hairs, her menopausal moments?
Celebs are pretty good at putting on a persona for the public, and it makes lots of vibrant woman feel like they can’t measure up. Julie Andrews could learn to loosen up a little and show her more natural side…and make it much easier for all vibrant women to do the same.
Being vibrant means changing with the times and embracing your ever-changing self…but don’t forget to hang on to the parts that make you you. Julie Andrews recently came up in a VN discussion, where members talked about happy childhood memories. It’s likely that, in some way, Julie Andrews is part of yours.
VN member Bonnie McFarland says that “bad things happen…as we age.” She still uses a trick she learned a long time ago from The Sound of Music to chase the blues away.
“Remember Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp?” She asked. One of her favorite songs in the movie “conveys deep wisdom, wisdom to lift us out of our doldrums.”
“When you’re feeling bad, remembering your favorite things can lift your mood,” she says. “What are a few of your favorite things? Give yourself three minutes right now to think of, to make a list of, and to let yourself feel and focus on a few of your favorite things.”
VN member Jender remembers another song from a Julie Andrews movie that meant a lot to her during childhood and today: “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” The song wasn’t sung by Andrews on film, but it’s one of the high points of the movie that helped make her a household name.
NBC plans to remake The Sound of Music with another actress in the lead role. Andrews told the Wall Street Journal that she won’t be in the film, but she does support it. “It’s all part of the process of those wonderful properties going out and reaching another audience,” she said.
That’s the essence of what moving forward is all about. Things change. Even the past changes, in some ways. But vibrant women move forward, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant.
The weather has been anything but spring-like in most of the U.S. lately. We are beyond cabin fever now. So, it’s time to DANCE!
That’s right, get out there and dance. Nothing makes one feel so alive and vibrant as a great night out dancing. Check out your local dance classes, and clubs with bands. Dancing isn’t just for your parents or your college kids.
We boomers might seem stuck in the middle a bit – “sandwiched” is the buzzword. Our parents knew all sorts of great dances: fox trot, jitterbug and swing to name a few. Our kids are out there “grinding” and some are clever enough to know actual dances. Our latest favorite is – West Coast Swing – take a look at how the Canadian champions do it.
Dancing goes beyond providing exercise. It is an opportunity to connect romantically with your partner (or a partner) and participate in a communal activity that is centuries old. It appears that ballroom dancing is traced back to 16th-century French renaissance social dances. Dances in the ballrooms of Loire Valley estates are a far cry from the rage that swept the world last summer – “Gangnan style.” The Wall Street Journal does a fabulous job of explaining the popularity of this song and the related dance in How “Gangnam Style” Went Viral.
We don’t suggest you go out and get your Gangnam on, but we do propose a swing lesson, some two-stepping, or any steps that get you around the dance floor. Grab your partner and off you go and let’s bring spring in with a dosey-doe!