Pittsburgh women go online to service breast cancer patients
When a woman dealing with cancer loses her hair and her breasts, and becomes bloated from steroids, it can be hard to hold onto self-esteem, said Lisa Lurie, who was diagnosed two years ago with invasive ductal breast cancer at the age of 47.
“Cancer makes you check your vanity at the door,” she said.
Lurie knows first hand how hard it is to cope with the reality of living day-to-day in the wake of the disease, following surgery and through chemotherapy.
Living with cancer, Lurie found it hard to dress well and find products that made her feel good about herself. Now cancer-free, Lurie and her close friend, Ellen Weiss Kander, have launched cancerbeglammed.com, a website designed to help women going through cancer surgery and treatment find the things they need to allow them to feel like themselves.
“It’s not about vanity,” said Lurie, “but about holding onto a sense of self while the sand is shifting out from under your feet.”
“I really hit rock bottom,” she continued. “It’s just soul destroying. That’s the piece you’re not prepared for. And that’s the goal of Cancer Be Glammed — to help women pick up and start to reclaim something of what they had before they had cancer.”
This month, when the start-up is being announced, happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
While recovering from her double mastectomy, Lurie started searching on the Internet for products that could ease her healing, while her friend Kander “hit the stores.”
Kander, who had had experience maintaining her own sense of style while going through a round of chemotherapy for a rare blood disorder, and Lurie found what they were looking for: great head scarves, made out of beautiful fabrics; mastectomy bras that “didn’t look like something your great-grandmother would wear”; soft button-up pajamas for those with limited mobility who have a hard time putting on something over head; lovely wicking sleepwear, for those women dealing with night sweats as a result of early menopause; skin products; even Kindles for those who could benefit from enlarged print and the ease of carrying many books on a single device.
These products are now collected on a single website.
“We’re not trying to say to women ‘You have to get dressed up with full make-up like you used to,’” Lurie said, “but ‘Here are some products that will make you feel good, that will let you pick yourself up.’”
One of the criteria in selecting which products to promote, according to Kander, was that they had to be things a woman would want to keep using after recovery, or if she were not sick. And Lurie and Kander have found some pretty great things with wide appeal, including unique jewelry, comfortable stretch pants that can be used for yoga after recovery and attractive, sun protective apparel, useful for those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.
“It’s amazing how many products are out there,” Kander said. “We’re taking the legwork out, so people can find the products they need right away. And many things on the site make great gifts that family and friends can give to a loved one to help her through.”
Cancer Be Glammed also features a blog where women can share information about other great products they have found; links to other cancer resources; and, a “Recover In Style Checklist,” designed to make shopping less stressful.
“Women undergoing cancer treatment fall into a fashion black hole,” Lurie said. “We feature about 15 different key companies, and over 200 products.”
Cancer Be Glammed donates five percent of its profits to cancer support organizations, such as Gilda’s Club of Western Pennsylvania, its first beneficiary.
“There’s nothing out there like the site we’ve created,” Kander said, noting that, unlike other cancer sites, it is product-focused, and does not purport to give medical advice. “As Jewish women, we were raised to give back, and that is done not only through our donations to cancer organizations, but by creating this site for women, we are doing our part in tikkun olam (repairing the world).”
“We want to make these women’s lives easier, and give them support as they are going through the things we went through,” Lurie added. “It’s an enormous personal labor of love.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)