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AnaOno and #Cancerland in Historical NYFW Event

08 Feb, 2017

So What is it We're EXPOSING at New York Fashion Week?

To say, as a fashion designer, that having my own collection walk the runway at New York Fashion Week has not been a dream of mine, would be a lie. And because I am not in the habit of wanting to lie to all of you, and don’t want to start now, I won’t.

Yes. I am beyond pumped, thrilled, giddy, frazzled, overwhelmed, over the moon, excited to see the AnaOno logo projected above the catwalk this Sun., Feb. 12, as part of THE New York Fashion Week with #Cancerland and Art Hearts Fashion.

But that isn’t the full truth either.

You see, when 16 beautiful individuals take 15 minutes out of their lives to put on an AnaOno design and walk in front of global media and, yes, even some celebrities, with flashes firing around them and film crews following their every move, that moment is so much bigger than me. And so much bigger than lingerie and loungewear.

And, THAT is what I am most proud of and honored to take part in. Sunday will not be just about AnaOno and #Cancerland at New York Fashion Week. Sunday will be about raising a megaphone and shining a spotlight on breast cancer, breast surgery and stage IV disease.

THAT is what EXPOSED is all about. And that is why we’re walking.

A beautiful friend of mine, the woman who has made it possible for AnaOno to walk on the world’s stage, was talking recently about warrior women. Not cancer warriors per se, but the warriors who protect and lead their tribe, those who grow and nurture communities, who fight for what they believe in, and who rise up for all other warriors like themselves. She was passionately speaking about what it is like to lead and live your life in the greatest way one can: by using our abilities to express ourselves and harbor a climate for change. Loudly. Her exact words when talking about this warrior legacy, her warrior legacy, the warrior legacy of so many us who may have decades or days ahead of them, were:

WE LIVED TO HAVE OUR VOICES HEARD.

That friend, that erudite, fierce, incredible woman is Champagne Joy. And her words, which have echoed within me every single day as I curate this collection and organize this event, are the proof why our joint show with her pioneer foundation #Cancerland is so much greater than myself and my company.

This armor of sorts that I had put on every day of my young adult life precancer - the slick of mascara and lipstick, my provocative yet androgynous clothing style with my almost dangerous plunging necklines and killer jewelry all of which made me feel so fierce - meant nothing when I caught a glimpse of myself getting into the shower after my cancer treatment. If I wasn’t knocked down in that moment, the tearing through my closet to find a t-shirt from college to cover my sports bra before heading to a senior staff board meeting left me in a heap of tears on the floor every morning.

As I slowly rebuilt my own self-esteem and confidence, first by getting a mastectomy tattoo, then by talking to other women about life after acute treatment, and finally trying on my first bra prototype, I wondered why none of this was part of some greater “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Mastectomy” pamphlet they handed out at your surgeon’s office. WHY was this piece missing? Why did nobody warn me? Why were we talking about these problems shrouded in secrecy - and not just our physical and emotional turmoil, but our sexual difficulties as well?

There is something strange that happens between being wheeled into surgery with one body and being wheeled out with another. But that oddity doesn’t seem to make itself known for a long, long time. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it for many months, years, in fact.

But, Champagne gets it.

She reminds us: Self and beauty and identity and fashion and makeup; these are important to a person’s identity and how a person is seen. Now that may be no makeup and no hair and no color, and ‘I take a shower and I keep going and that’s my beauty.’ But, it’s ‘my sense of self’ that lies within that. What happens in this disease is you are often unable to retain your sense of self, and if you do, it’s because you master that. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work it.

Is it society? Is it the magazine covers? Is it history? Who knows. Who cares. The bottom line is it isn’t okay anymore.

Yes, the conversation is shifting slowly, beginning with our community, bloggers, women taking to Instagram to share every aspect of their story and their treatment, including hopes, fears, tears and really honest photographs. These are lightning rod changes that didn’t exist even just a couple of years ago. Or even a year ago!

All of these things can kill me, but breast cancer won't be one of them

A photo posted by Paige More (@paige_previvor) on

But the message isn’t changing in the media. Or come October. And so many people still don’t understand there is no cure for breast cancer. And that no one dies from cancer in the breast. And that we are not “Saving Second Base,” we are saving people; human beings.

I don’t know about you - but “Second Base” or the lack there of, does not change the fact I am human or a woman or beautiful.

It took me awhile to get there, and I know I am not alone in that feeling or that timeline of body acceptance. But as our world gets closer, our communication faster, our videos more viral, our stories read in more languages, it is time to close that gap. Breasts do not define beauty. Breasts do not define femininity. And whether you are a woman with your natural breasts altered by a lumpectomy, or have new breasts surgically constructed, no breasts, or even some combination of all of these - you are still you and you are still beautiful.

The fact we are still brandishing a pink ribbon on everything - as Champagne says “the bag of Pink Doritos” - and banging a drum about awareness is frustrating. Early detection, early mammograms, “Feel it on the First” aside, 1 in 8 women WILL get breast cancer in their lifetime. And no matter if it is caught at stage 0 or stage IIIC, 1 in 3 of those diagnosed will eventually become metastatic. And once metastatic, once stage IV, they are staring down a death sentence. One day they sadly will be one of the 113 who lose their life - not their battle, their life - to breast cancer. Believe it or not the vast amount of dollars that are raised from your purchase adorning a pink ribbon, likely none of it, actually, is going to research for a CURE. Because the number of research dollars earmarked for metastatic disease is abysmal.

THAT must also change.

Seven of the 16 individuals walking the runway for #Cancerland and AnaOno at Art Hearts Fashion New York Fashion Week have metastatic disease. Of those seven, four were diagnosed with what is referred to as de novo metastatic disease; their initial diagnosis was stage IV. One of those women was diagnosed terminal at just 18 years old. Instead of going to prom, she had a bilateral mastectomy - the first step in prolonging her life.

And because we’re being totally honest here, I want to confess something else.

When I began this shift in trajectory that would ultimately lead to the present day, I sort of faked it until I made it. And even now, as we sit in the studio laughing or crying over customer emails and cards and letters, or as we spend more time talking to those starting treatment than responding to emails, or figuring out how to explain to people we are just three people plus a few interns (and it is mostly just me and the interns in the studio everyday, with my satellite girls checking in remotely), I still ask if I have actually made it yet.

The answer to that question often changes, depending on what we’ve been working on or handling that particular day, but I can tell you this: If Champagne Joy and I can open up the dialogue about the effects of breast cancer on people and their body image or turn it up to 11 when it comes to the need for metastatic research and legislative change over the next several days, then yes, yes, we’ve made it.

Not just me, not just AnaOno, not just #Cancerland - but all of us. All of us warriors living with our voices heard.

 

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5 comments

Lauri Almany

February 09, 2017

The writing, your writing conveys a picture, a story that touches my soul.
My Essence has been found in your telling of this all to real experience. It is 3 years exactly for me on Feb 4,2017 . I was wheeled into the surgery room and wheeled out with an entirely different body! 15 hours under anesthesia and not getting the outcome I expected! I was having a flap done and it didn’t take… “not enough blood flow”said my surgeon! A whole new plan was created based on that first surgery and so began my succession of 9 surgeries. I am a warrior!
I left my lucrative Administrator of assisted living homes title for a more soothing and creative role of designing jewelry that is
1 of a Kind. I am 1 of a Kind! I am blessed.
Thank you for Sharing and Caring ladies.
It really does help all of us that have gone thru a similar experience. We are a team. I shall share your story… live long ladies.
We need your perseverance, your desire to help others in this quest that we all share

Gwen

February 10, 2017

I just found this site. Thank you for starting this. I love this post. I am two weeks post recovery from a DIEP flap procedure. Thank you for sharing your story and making a difference. xx

Tara

February 17, 2017

These are totally my thoughts too. And it sucked not being able to find relatable info during my treatment. I’m working to change that too. X

Kathy Parke

February 22, 2017

I’m so touched by your story and impressed by your passion to help others. I’m recovering from a double mastectomy now, lost my mother to the disease when she was in her 50’s, diagnosed in my 50’s and have a 26 yo daughter in the batter’s box up next. She happened to be at NYFW and sent me some of your products which I’m taking to my plastic surgeon and oncology surgeon as I wish I had known about your products before my procedures but still have a long road ahead and they are perfect for me now too. I live in Dallas, TX and will help get the word out here. I’m on a similar mission and will support your product any way I can.
p.s. I have a son in San Francisco who is an oncology research scientist fighting to find a medicinal cure for cancer (breast and others)…we’re getting close. Hang in there and keep educating women about early detection.

Eileen Lopez Tome

March 08, 2017

This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. I am 5 weeks post-today bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction with implants today. Thank you for giving voice to my many post-mastectomy fears, insecurities and sad thoughts. And thank you for making bras for me and for us. I don’t know all the lingo yet, the survivor/survival lingo, but I do know that one of the things that will help me recover a sense of self is good, comfortable, pretty bra. Thank you for making them.

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