Two Words. One Answer.

I was in my childhood home, celebrating my 28th birthday and my bridal shower for our May wedding, when it happened. The phone rang, and I heard my doctor’s voice on the other line filled with sadness. Two words. One answer. Breast cancer.

You can never be prepared for a diagnosis such as cancer, nor can you be fully prepared for the months (and in some cases, years) of treatments that rob you of energy, humility and identity. But, as survivors, we do what we have to, and get through it with as much grace and wit as possible.

As I exited my own personal path through cancer’s woods, I found myself staring down two conundrums I had never expected: 1. Now that I have it back, what exactly am I doing with this life? 2. Why does nothing…especially my beautiful bras…fit me any more?

Sure, I expected my metamorphosis from puberty-given breast tissue to spacers to Lego-like implants to have moments of non-conformity when I’d have to wear contraptions that accounted for oh-so-sexy things like drainage. But I figured once my surgically-restored breasts had fully “healed” and “set,” I could hop right back on the sexy lingerie train.

I could not. I couldn’t even find a plain, white, cotton bra that worked. My options were sports bras, shelf camisoles or more sports bras. None of these worked, exactly, with my Friday night date-night dress nor with my three-piece feel-good power suit.

Tears and frustration did not even come close to describing the hormone-afflicted, self-esteem-addled banshee I became every morning while getting dressed or every evening when I combed Google for options. I asked myself on a twice-daily basis, “Is this all I can do? I battled cancer, lost my hair and eyelashes, lost my breasts, and now I have a life relegated to a hot pink poly-lycra blend and baggy t-shirts?” At the near point of giving up on my femininity forever, lying awake late one night (likely due to a furnace-worthy hot flash), I had my AH-HA moment.

If I felt like this, surely someone else did. And, with my fashion background that included sketching, pattern-making and logistic planning – basically everything from pencil mark to store hanger – I could come up with a bra that worked for all of us.

You may wonder what took me so long to figure this out. I know I did. It made perfect sense given my career choice and my longtime goal to own my own company. And, it suddenly satiated my quest to find something in life that would be fulfilling and contributing at the same time.

AnaOno Intimates was born that night. Besides putting together a collection of sexy, lacy bras (with the plan in place to later offer matching panties along with robes, nighties and traditional lingerie), I crafted a business plan that could give back and create sisterhood.

After the usual struggles that come with launching your own business while still working a 9-to-5 gig, AnaOno successfully debuted to the public this past May, 2014. Handcrafted in the US, and designed in my Philadelphia studio, our bras fit all types of breast cancer reconstruction (FLAP to enhanced implants), unilateral or bilateral mastectomies, as well as those who choose not to reconstruct or go the prosthesis route. And, because our bras are measured to fit the body primarily and then, additionally, the cup size (or lack thereof), they fit better and more comfortably. Named for survivors I met during my own battle with breast cancer, our bras also offer choices that fit any personality or occasion without compromising style and beauty.

Through the process of starting and growing AnaOno, I answered my other question regarding a more fulfilling, gratifying life of giving back. The girls I met throughout my journey have become very close friends, and many that I met briefly along the way have changed my life. So, it only made sense to donate proceeds to breast cancer charity organizations that give to those women going through treatment and beyond. Currently, AnaOno is partnered with both Jill’s Wish and Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

In the last several months, I have been able to make the Second Act cancer granted me my full-time job, and I haven’t been happier. I often tell people with all cancer took away from me, it gave me something so important and immeasurable. I am beyond thrilled to be able to provide such lovely pieces to women who have also struggled to find a pretty, feminine bra that fits and is COMFORTABLE all day long. And through giving back, I have met incredible women who’ve battled the disease and keep me going.

I’ve been through the pain of treatment and the grief in recovery. I’ve struggled just like so many others of us have. And because of that, at AnaOno Intimates we’ve made it our goal is to make certain every woman knows they are Never Alone.

That is what makes me most proud of this new chapter in my life, and so excited to share my Second Act with all of you.

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