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Danielle's Surviving in Style

Updated on May 10, 2015

Meet Danielle

Strong and Determined

My daughter, Danielle, age 29, is in the middle of her "cancer year". When she was first diagnosed with Stage 3C breast cancer (Oct 2014), the idea of a full year of treatment was crushing. She was told that it would include neoadjuvant chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 6-7 weeks of radiation and Herceptin infusions continuing until October. All of her plans--trips, studies, conferences, clubs, volunteer work--had to be put on hold in order to fight this battle that she wasn't expecting. Instead of retreating, Danielle has faced the challenge head on and with a smile on her face. She has had the support of amazing friends and family and the care from a wonderful team of doctors. The picture above tells her story. Look in her eyes and you will see, "I am strong. I am determined. I am happy."

This blog is intended for women of all ages who are going through, or recovering from, breast cancer. In it, we will share tips that helped Danielle feel confident and in control. The idea isn't that you have to look good all the time, but that you don't have to lose your style during the journey.

Start with a Pixie Cut and a Little Attitude

Power Cut and Giving Back

To help with the transition of losing her hair, Danielle decided to get a pixie cut about a week after her first chemo treatment. It may have lasted only a couple of weeks, but was worth every penny. We bought a hair trimming kit (about $25 at Walgreens) and when her hair started falling out in earnest (after her second chemo), we shaved it all off. Shaving cream and a Bic shaver took care of the stubbles. There is something very empowering about taking charge and getting rid of your hair before cancer takes it. We like to use the expression "In your face, Cancer!" Danielle's hair wasn't long enough for Locks of Love, but it did qualify for Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. Ask your hairdresser about ways in which you can give.

Wigs are Fun

What We Have Learned about Wigs:

Wigs are great for days when you want to forget you have cancer and feel like your "old self" again. I have noticed that a lot of people (like Danielle) prefer to either go "bare-headed" or wear a hat. So, I would say a wig is optional. Although some insurances will pay for it (if you get a prescription from your doctor for a "cranial prosthesis"), they can get very pricey for the few times you might wear it. Of course, everyone is different, and you might want to wear a wig all the time. Whatever makes you most comfortable, that is best for you. You will have the choice of a real hair wig or synthetic. The advantage of the real hair wig is that it can be washed, cut and styled any way you want. The advantage of a synthetic is that it will be much cheaper. If you can't afford a wig and would like one, please contact the American Cancer Society to find out if they have donated wigs or funding for one. I suggest that you go to a shop that specializes in dealing with cancer patients. Danielle bought her wig at Cynthia's Wig Boutique in Tallahassee, FL. They were awesome and made the experience very enjoyable. The individual "dressing/fitting rooms" are elegant and we appreciated the privacy. To find a wig shop that specializes in cancer patients in your area, check with your local American Cancer Society or do a search of "cancer" "wigs" and the name of your city. You might also want to try checking on EBay.

All About Hats

Our advice on hats is: you can never have too many. We bought a few before treatment started, plus Danielle already had quite a collection. Amazon was a great source for us. Search the words "sleep hats" or "chemo hats" for the coziest ones. Or try "cool cancer hats" for days you want to be especially "styling". One hat that we highly recommend is a big floppy sun hat. Remember, your scalp and ears are getting sun exposure like never before. Protect yourself from having to deal with skin cancer down the road---invest in a good sunscreen.

Danielle keeps her hats on a rack by her front door (see picture above). The mirror helps with the last minute make-up/hat/wig check.

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Comfortable Chemo

Danielle's Chemo Day "Must Haves"

1. chemo bag (her friends got her one with rollers, easy to transport)

2. water bottle (drink, drink, drink lots of water on chemo day)

3. iPad (Danielle looked forward to watching rented movies)

4. earphones (for listening to music and to drown out the noises around you)

5. sandwich (Danielle liked a simple peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich)

6. snacks (saltines, raisins, trail mix, candies, gum)

7. cozy blanket (we washed it after each chemo)

8. neck pillow

9. chapstick

10. tissues

11. antibacterial gel

12 cozy, warm socks

13. a good book or magazine

14. puzzle books (Danielle liked Soduku)

15. phone (we turned ours to 'silent' and didn't use them much, out of respect for those around us)

Biker Chick Look

Scarves are In!

Luckily, Danielle was already a fan of scarves before she got cancer, so we haven't had to buy many. Recently, I walked around the mall and saw adorable and fairly inexpensive scarves in almost every store. They are really "in" right now. Danielle loves infinity scarves because, let's face it, they are the easiest to throw on. Gray and pink are her favorites because they go with almost every outfit she has. She keeps them in a lovely box in her armoire.

Scarves are perfect for:

1. covering port scars

2. keeping you warm during chemo treatments

3. adding "depth" after a mastectomy

4. looking stylish

5. adding color and pizzazz to any outfit

How to Tie a Scarf

What's in Danielle's Makeup Kit?

1. foundation and sponge applicators

2. eyeshadow and Q-tips for applying

3. new mascara

4. coverup and Q-tips for applying

5. new blush and cotton balls for applying

6. eyebrow kit with stencils

7. new eyeliner (wipe with alcohol on cotton ball after applying)

7. pretty lipstick

8. fake eyelashes

Makeup Tips

Because we had heard that makeup can harbor bacteria, and you have to be extra careful during chemo, we bought all new makeup. Most of it came from CVS, and was fairly inexpensive. Danielle uses a new sponge every time she applies foundation and fresh Q-tips for applying eye shadow and coverup. A brush is great for blush, but you can use a cotton ball as well.

The eyebrow kit that is shown in the picture is amazing. It is called "Anastasia Beverly Hills Elements Brow Kit 5 piece". We bought it through Amazon. For Danielle's light complexion, Golden Blonde works best. Our advice: less is more.

Fake eyelashes are great for when you want to go out on the town. The brand above works great and is easy to remove. I suggest that you avoid putting the "glue" too near your lash line. It might strip off your already precious remaining eyelashes. Eyeliner will help fill in the gaps where the base of the lashes sit and will help your eyes "pop" even more.

The cute makeup bag isn't a necessity, but it's a fun and stylish way to keep your makeup organized and in one place. It's also a great gift idea.


Great Makeup Video

Danielle with Wig and Makeup

Look Good, Feel Better Class

Danielle thoroughly enjoyed her Look Good, Feel Better class. She learned about it after registering with the American Cancer Society. During the FREE session, an instructor talked about wigs, showed demonstrations on how to tie scarves and gave a complete make-up lesson. Every person in the class received a neat pink bag with all of this amazing make-up! Check out their website below for more information and how-to videos.

Organization

Danielle and I are both planners, so about two weeks before her mastectomy, we started preparing. This helped in two ways: it kept our minds busy, so we didn't obsess about the surgery, and it made us feel more in "control" of the situation. We read a lot about the actual procedure, but found very little information on how to prepare for life afterwards. The first thing we did was move all of the clothes that she wouldn't be able to wear for a while (too hard to put on) to her walk-in closet and put all the clothes she would be able to wear in the portable armoire right by her bed (easily accessible). She already had the armoire, but if you don't have one, just section off a part of your closet for your post mastectomy clothes or buy an inexpensive clothing rack. Not only is it practical, but it is less discouraging than staring at a closet full of clothes you can't wear each time you want to pick out an outfit.

In the "Post Mastectomy Closet", we put:

1. cozy button down pajamas (I bought Danielle a couple of cute short sleeve/short sets and a very soft long sleeve/pants set)

2. zip down or button down shirts

3. a few larger-sized shirts that button down (that have enough room for the drains)

4. comfortable pants that can be easily pulled up

5. camisoles with pockets inside for holding the drains (Before buying any, check with your cancer center. Danielle got two free from her "cancer navigator".)

6. jewelry box

7. a fresh supply of clean towels

8. a comfy robe (it's a good idea to pack one for the hospital--so you don't expose your backside when they ask you to walk around the hallway)

9. a box for scarves

10. zip-up hoodies

We also cleared off her bathroom counter and added a box for medical supplies. (See picture above.) Some supplies that you might want to have on hand are:

1. medical tape and gauze

2. disposable gloves (I like to buy large--so much easier to put on)

3. a lanyard for holding the drains while you shower


Bold, Bald and Beautiful

Be brave and show your bald head.  It's a beautiful fashion statement.
Be brave and show your bald head. It's a beautiful fashion statement.

Awesome Prosthesis Program at Nordstroms

Post Mastectomy Fashion

Many women these days are choosing not to have reconstruction after a mastectomy. Or, like Danielle, reconstruction will be delayed because of radiation treatments. I am thankful that, in our "day and age", it is perfectly acceptable to go flat chested and we are free to choose whatever is best for us.

Check out Danielle's "Fashion Post Mastectomy" page on Pinterest to find some great outfit ideas.

The pictures below, show Danielle stepping out in style.

Room for the Drains

Drains are Doable

Loose-fitting tops that button down are perfect for the first couple of weeks after your mastectomy. You will need extra room for the drains and the camisoles that hold them, so borrowing or buying a shirt one size larger works well. It's important to plan ahead so that when you want to go out, you won't have the excuse that you have nothing to wear.

Tops that flair at the bottom are great for hiding drains.
Tops that flair at the bottom are great for hiding drains.

Everyday Looks

Once the drains are out, you will be able to wear more form-fitting clothing. Your range of motion will be limited for at least a couple of months, so button-downs and zippered blouses are easiest. Shirts that you can step into are also good. Look for shirts with stretchy material and straps that adjust. This will make it easier to slip your arms through.

Zippered Front Dress with Colorful Scarf

Zipper front dresses are easy to slip into.
Zipper front dresses are easy to slip into.

Hats and Scarves Bump up Your Style

One of Danielle's favorite shirts, she already has several in her closet.  We love the button down, tapered waist and pockets.
One of Danielle's favorite shirts, she already has several in her closet. We love the button down, tapered waist and pockets.

The Layered Look

Look for tops with ruffles, bows and pleats in front.
Look for tops with ruffles, bows and pleats in front.

Crossover Clutches are Light and Stylish

This cute scarf was on sale at World Market.  Once you get started looking, you will find scarves everywhere.  :)
This cute scarf was on sale at World Market. Once you get started looking, you will find scarves everywhere. :)

Danielle's New Purse

It's a girl thing. We love our purses and having them organized somehow makes us feel more confident and ready for the day. After a mastectomy, you will probably hear the words, "Don't carry a heavy purse." But, don't worry, there are some adorable crossover clutches available that will work great. I bought this one at Express. Danielle keeps hers stocked with:

1. a pillbox with essential medicines

2. phone

3. small antibacterial bottle

4. bandaids

5. mini sunscreen bottle

6. lipgloss



Bolero Sweater with Blouse

Pleated tops that are layered with bolero sweaters add "volume" to the bust area.
Pleated tops that are layered with bolero sweaters add "volume" to the bust area.

Fashion Tip:

Use fashion tape to keep blouses from gapping open when you bend over.

Coobie Bra + Knitted Knockers = Secure Comfort

What we like about Coobie Bra Store:

1. the bras are soft and stretchy with a little padding

2. camisoles are lacy and pretty

3. camisoles have removable padding

4. knitted knockers fit perfectly in the bras

What we like about Knitted Knockers:

1. they are very light and stay in place

2. you can put them in your own bras

3. they are adjustable (just add or remove stuffing)

4. they are washable

5. they are made with love by volunteers

Casual Work Day

This gray button down shirt is soft and cozy.  Comfort should be your number one goal.
This gray button down shirt is soft and cozy. Comfort should be your number one goal.

Flouncy and Feminine

Invest in a good quality black sweater and wide belt that you can wear with many different outfits.
Invest in a good quality black sweater and wide belt that you can wear with many different outfits.

Perfect for the Office

The horizontal stripes and asymmetrical pattern in this top lead your eye to the waist and not the bust. .
The horizontal stripes and asymmetrical pattern in this top lead your eye to the waist and not the bust. .

Going to Church Outfit

Stay Strong and Fight!

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