Sammy Nickalls
October 18, 2015 9:12 am

When Dana Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was the day before her 28th birthday and two months before her wedding. “[My] world flipped upside down. . . I immediately went in for a double mastectomy and got the reconstruction,” she told Today.

With the surgery came an entirely new issue that Dana had never thought of before. “I went to my underwear drawer and pulled out all the beautiful lacy bras I owned and I quickly realized this wasn’t going to work — I was no longer normal,” Dana, now 33, told Today.

After surgery and implant reconstruction, a woman’s breasts are often changed forever. . . and in a way that makes traditional “sexy” bras impossible. “Implant reconstruction is not like breast augmentation or reduction surgery, because no tissue remains, and in some cases, women lose additional chest wall muscle and tissue,” Dana told Mashable. “In my case, my breasts could not fall or be placed into a molded or fixed bra cup, so my traditional, pre-cancer size no longer fit, nor did the cup size that was the equivalent of my implant.”

Dana, pictured above, had to get larger sizes, but with larger sizes meant gaps and painful underwires that dug into her scars. “I thought, this can’t be it: This can’t be the way I’m going to have to live the rest of my life,” she told Today. “I can’t imagine wearing a sports bra every day to work, to business meetings, to a fun night out with my girlfriends. I made it my job to find a bra in the market.”

Things only get trickier when you take into account women who chose not to get reconstructive surgery, and those who only got a mastectomy on one side. “There is really nothing that works well. They are uncomfortable,” Jean Sachs, CEO at Living Beyond Breast Cancer Cancer, told Mashable. “Not that women are totally even, but after a mastectomy if you’re using a prosthetic, it is impossible to match the size of your other breast. You can’t go into a store and grab anything.”

So Dana decided that she would take matters into her own hands. “Sometimes something as simple as having bra and panties that fit can be a mood booster and a slice of normalcy, and it can go a long way in making you feel feminine, beautiful and whole again,” Donofree told Mashable. “Which is something every woman who’s had breast cancer wants to feel. We just want to feel like ourselves again.”

Enter AnaOno Intimates, which aims to “create intimates collections that make women who have undergone breast surgery feel beautiful, confident and proud.” Dana got rid of painful underwire, changed the traditional shape, and used stretchier fabrics so that bras could also work for women who had a mastectomy on only one side. Selling her creations online, she donates 10% of the proceeds to breast cancer charities.

“The French lace, the colors, how pretty they are, how they fit — it brings back confidence, not just comfort, and that’s what was missing before,” Jeanette Caligiuri, breast cancer survivor and founder of Faith and Hope Boutique — a mastectomy store inside the University of Pennsylvania hospital that sells AnaOno — told Today. “For someone who’s not in the thick of this, it’s hard to understand how a regular bra just doesn’t fit. We have women who come in, and to be able to give them this, it makes them feel so good. It’s almost like a reward. It’s really changed a lot of lives, I think. I really do.”

The AnaOno models are breast cancer survivors as well, Dana told Today. “The bras are also named after them, so in a way they’re all my muses,” she said. “These are all women in the Philadelphia area that I’ve met through support groups and the community, who have been incredibly supportive to me during the launch. So it was great to be able to showcase their journeys.”

AnaOno may have already changed a lot of lives, but the brand only plans on becoming more and more inclusive, hoping to help as many women as possible. The goal is to include plus-sizes and start selling the bras in well-known stores. If you want to check out the AnaOno collection, visit the site here.

Related:

The one thing every woman should do in October

(Images via Instagram.)

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