AnaOno Empowers Women Facing Breast Cancer and Surgery
Working together to help women take control of their breast health in beautiful, functional lingerie
Breast cancer can turn your whole entire world upside-down. Just two simple words can leave you with endless questions about your health, your future and your life. Surgeries, treatments, doctor appointments — it all can seem incredibly overwhelming.
The good news? You’re never alone throughout the journey. Even when it comes to choosing undergarments that are right for you when recovering from something as traumatic as breast surgery.
Dana Donofree, breast cancer survivor and fashion design maven, was in that exact spot at age twenty-seven. After a diagnosis and treatment for ductal carcinoma, Dana was called to create a line of intimates, named AnaOno, filled with beauty, comfort and ease of use that women could wear during a time of post-breast surgery recovery.
Women facing this disease — and the surgeries that may come along with it — deserve to know all of their options when it comes to things like reconstruction after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. As Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, also known as BRA Day, draws near on October 16, Komen CSNJ and AnaOno are working together to empower women facing surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis to take control of their breast health.
Learn a little bit more about AnaOno’s inspiring story below!
Komen CSNJ: How did AnaOno come to life?
Dana: When faced with my own diagnosis at the age of 27, I expected certain things, like feeling “sick” or struggling through treatment. I figured I would not feel my best, but no one warned me that after my mastectomy my body would change so much that the same bras I wore before would no longer fit. There were so many unknowns related to cancer and surgery — I didn’t expect my underwear drawer to be one of them!
That’s when I knew I had to use the skills and talent I’d developed during my fashion design career, and do something about it. I designed bras that fit my new body, and quickly found I wasn’t the only one facing this problem. AnaOno was born.
Komen CSNJ: What advice do you have for women who are recently diagnosed and preparing for breast reconstruction?
Dana: I was very overwhelmed facing surgery decisions. Because I had an aggressive form of cancer and had to make decisions quickly, the pressure to make the right decisions was extra stressful. What I want to share with others is that in most cases, the decision really is yours. It’s your body and your life: you have to choose what is best for you.
My diagnosis included several factors that put me at a high risk, so a mastectomy on my cancerous side was highly recommended, and I had to choose whether to have a preventative mastectomy on my natural side. It turns out I didn’t have to decide quite as quickly as I did. I could have waited, but the idea of multiple surgeries had me a bit overwhelmed, so I chose to do them all at the same time. But also important: if you are not sure you are ready for reconstruction, it CAN wait. You can also change your mind later no matter what path you take. So do what is best for YOU, because you are the only one that matters.
Komen CSNJ: Why is it important for AnaOno’s mission to support community events like Komen CSNJ’s Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Breakfast?
Dana: Bringing awareness to choice is so important when making major decisions in your treatment and care plan. We know that not all patients are told about reconstruction options or their options following surgery decisions. It is important to be informed so you can make the best decisions for yourself. Maybe you want to reconstruct, but the doctor you are meeting with is not offering you those options. Maybe you don’t want to reconstruct but feel pressured to do so.
This wouldn’t be as big of a challenge if we could inform and educate ourselves about the options available following lumpectomy or mastectomy surgery. When we all become more informed patients, we are empowered to make the right decisions for our own lives and bodies.
Komen CSNJ: What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Breakfast?
Dana: I always look forward to meeting both new and old patients like myself. To meet them in person, to listen and learn about what they have been through in their lives and through their diagnosis creates community. I also love meeting the caregivers and practitioners getting us through these tough times! Their support and love helps us get through our treatments and into our lives beyond. I feel honored to get to share that with others.
Komen CSNJ: How does AnaOno use social media to tell the stories of real women facing life after surgery with your products?
Dana: When launching AnaOno, I wanted to make sure that we opened up important conversations regarding breast cancer. Seeing other women like myself was important. When I looked for bras after surgery, many of the mastectomy bra options being advertised showed women with real breasts. It was such an insult to me to see a model’s beautiful breasts when my own breasts had been removed because of cancer. I realized that we weren’t talking about our bodies in real ways, we weren’t showing the scars and other physical outcomes of a cancer diagnosis.
I knew we needed to open up the conversation so we could be empowered about our choices and our bodies. Through our social media channels we share real patient stories and have real conversations about what we face after a cancer diagnosis. On our website, we use real patients as models.
Komen CSNJ: Tell us about some of your favorite products. How does AnaOno inspire confidence with these products?
Dana: Each product I designed was created to solve a specific problem or challenge I faced in my own healing journey. One of my favorites is the Miena robe with removable drain belt. I was warned about my limited range of motion following surgery, but didn’t realize how extremely limited that actually would be. I brought a t-shirt and sweatpants to the hospital, because what else are you supposed to go home with following a major surgery? What I quickly realized was that I couldn’t even pull a t-shirt over my head, so my friends had to run out and grab me a zipper hoodie just so I could wheel myself out of the hospital. Otherwise I would have been sporting my surgery bra outside in the middle of winter in Colorado! I then realized I had nothing at home that was comfy and opened in the front, so my Mom rushed out to Marshalls and came home with a turquoise terrycloth robe with a ruffled collar. This couldn’t have been any further from my personal style, but guess what? I wore it for two weeks straight! To hold my drains I used my now empty pain pump.
One of my first designs was creating a beautiful robe with pockets, exactly what I wish I had during recovery. And the detachable belt, that was important for me, because I was spending money on so many things that were a one-time use only! It felt so wasteful, so I wanted to make sure I designed a solution that would be beautiful beyond the hospital bed. From there, I created bras that replaced my favorite bras from my pre-surgery underwear drawer, bras that are both comfy and beautiful, like the Delilah, and sporty like the Leslie, and my favorite (dare I say sexy date night bra?), the Gloria.
Komen CSNJ: What should women be looking for when finding the right bra after surgery?
Dana: Because each surgery results in different challenges, there are different tips for each surgery decision. If you are undergoing a mastectomy, either unilateral or bilateral, it is important to have something extra-soft and comfy against your skin as your incisions heal. It is also important to find a front closure so you can ease in and out of your bra while your range of motion is limited.
If you choose to stay flat, you are going to want a cupless bra, with no underwire and no padded cups, like our Rora Front Closure. It will support your remaining natural breast, if you are only removing one breast, and will lay flat against your post-mastectomy chest wall. It’s even pocketed for breast forms or insert pads that provide shape under your clothing if that’s what you want. If undergoing a lumpectomy, you may have a scar in your breast fold or under your arm where you are more sensitive.
If you want some soft support for your breasts, I suggest something soft and cozy like our Monica bra, that will keep you supported while you heal and even help keep you comfortable during radiation treatments. And if you are reconstructing, either with implants or FLAP surgery using your own tissue, the comfy Leslie and Delilah will keep you supported and feeling good after your range of motion and flexibility return.
Join AnaOno at our Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Breakfast on October 16 to learn more about breast surgery and reconstruction from four board-certified plastic surgeons. Learn more: komencsnj.org/breakfast