Friday, June 29, 2012

Cool Girls Get Cancer Weekend Shopping Splurge: Chambray Shirts

Welcome to the first installment of 
C.G.G.C. Weekend Shopping Splurge!

After surgery, especially a bilateral mastectomy, it's going to be a while before you'll be able to lift your arms and you will quickly discover that much of your wardrobe, even t-shirts, are hard to wear in the beginning.

The solution: Button-down shirts

Button-downs are classic and should be a staple of any cool girls wardrobe whether you have cancer or not. Since my surgery I've been stocking my closet with more and more. In fact, they're like the one item, besides a good striped t-shirt, I am constantly on the look-out for. You can wear them to work, on the weekends, with shorts, with skirts, on the get the idea.

Button-down shirts are always sexy even though you're rarely showing a lot of skin. And anyone with great style knows it's far better to leave something to the imagination rather than to bare all.

Chambray has always been a classic summer fabric but this year in particular, it's kind of "the" trend.

Case in point: an Olsen

an olsen twin wearing chambray

Looks like Ashley but I can't be sure. She looks effortlessly chic. Casual yet neat. Closing up one button more will keep you from feeling self-conscious without sacrificing a bit of cool. If you're having reconstruction, and depending on your final size, you can probably wear it exactly as shown. Remember: After reconstruction you won't have to consider the "sag factor" the way you did with your old body!

Here's another great chambray look worn by Ricky Lauren, wife of iconic American designer Ralph Lauren. Chambray + Ralph = Classic Cool

Ricky and Ralph Lauren

Check out these great chambray picks for yourself:

Buy here: Madewell //J. Crew // J. Brand // Mih Jeans // Preen

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tips For Dealing With Hypersensitive Skin After A Mastectomy


Approximately two weeks post-surgery you should start to notice overall improvement in the way you feel physically. Everyone is a little different of course. I took 3 weeks off from work following my bilateral mastectomy because I felt weak and crappy. Being relatively athletic and a go-go-go type of person I expected to return much sooner but the extra time helped me bounce back more quickly in the long run. If you have a cool boss like I do and/or can afford to get help with your kids, I highly recommend giving yourself a longer break.

Ironically, just when you do start feeling better...BOOM! New problems will arise. On my 10th day post-op, I started to experience a painful burning sensation on my chest, armpits, and sides, which made me literally rip my shirt off the minute I was safely inside the privacy of my own home. The feeling was unbearable; even the thinnest, most delicate piece of fabric grazing against my skin caused tears.

See that image above? Yeah...that was me.

This sensation doesn't happen to everyone but if it does happen to you: relax. During your surgery dozens of nerve endings were cut and basically they're just starting to heal and reconnect. It's totally normal and actually a good sign that you're on the mend. Your body is working.

Here are some tricks to handling the pain:
  • Start touching yourself! Applying pressure against the tissue expanders interestingly will feel great. Press and hold rather than moving your hand all over.
  • Tap your upper chest with your fingertips with firm, rapid movements. This will help to distract your attention away from the burning sensation. The effect is sort of like not being able to reach an itch in a difficult place. If you think of something else, the itch usually goes away because you've forgotten about it.
  • If you can handle it, stand under a firm spray setting on your shower. In the beginning, this hurt way too much for me but eventually this was one of the best techniques to relax my jittery nerve endings. Similarly, let the harder spray beat down on your back which will have both the distracting effect with the added benefit of a relaxing massage. My neck and lower back were in agony for several weeks post-op.
  • Blow on your chest. Pucker up and angle down!
  • What about ice? You should apply ice with extreme caution. As weird as it sounds, while you are experiencing this burning sensation, you simultaneously have very little feeling on the surface of your skin and can easily get freezer burn without realizing it.
  • Wear button-down shirts if you're in the company of others and can't be topless. You can at least undo the top few buttons and open up your neckline. For me, as soon as all clothing was away from the area, I felt some relief. (You can also strategically work in some blowing on the down-low.)

You can find information on this issue as well as some more tips for managing the pain on the website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Bras" For Bilateral Mastectomy With Reconstruction

If you've chosen to have reconstruction at the time of surgery, you're not only going to wake up with bandages and drains but little "mounds" that may trigger awkward recollections of 7th grade gym class. The expanders that will be inserted are very firm and will definitely not require much in the way of support. When you're finally ready to brave the outside world, all you'll need is a layer of protection between your skin and your clothes.

My plastic surgeon gave me a cotton, hook & eye front bra during my one week post-op visit. It had cups created by shirring under the bust and brushed-back elastic trim all around the bottom edge. There was not even the faintest hint of fashion which was just fine: this was supposed to be a purely functional garment. Until I put it on...

I was immediately reminded of several articles I read about the famous architect Michael Graves who has been paralyzed from the chest down since 2003 and has since found himself redesigning everything from a patient's perspective that the medical world has failed to anticipate.  

You can read about Graves' endeavors here, here, and here.

Needless to say, the elastic hurt as it rubbed against my scars and the pressure created by the elastic's tension felt wholly medieval. Pain aside, the "cups" were just laughable as they were full enough to accommodate a generously sized, natural B but rather, protruded in a semi-stiff crumple of material when I put it on.

I pulled these camisoles out from the depths of my closet which i designed more than 15 years ago. The material is a buttery, Italian viscose/spandex microfiber jersey somewhat akin to a bathing suit but not nearly as thick or shiny and without that bandage-y, sucks-you-in quality that body shapers like Spanx provide.

I'm lucky enough to own them in 3 natural skin tone shades which go perfectly under every item of clothing I have. The same supple material is used for the straps and piping which is key; there is NO elastic anywhere to press against your very sensitive skin. These camis gently skim the body providing some light support and the best part is that you can step in and out of them rather than having to pull anything over your head.  

Look for tops without a built-in shelf bra or empire seaming which will land right on top of your scars if you've had a double mastectomy and save the cute bralets or anything lacy until your reconstruction is over and done with as it might itch and rub. Stick to the basics for now and consider these a wise investment for your burgeoning undergarment wardrobe.  I will continue to wear these every day even when your surgery is a thing of the past.

I also recommend finding something that might be a little bigger than you normally think an item like this should fit as you don't want any compression during reconstruction. When you reach your desired size they will easily stretch to accommodate your new shape and tighten up for a bit more support.

Finally, try and get the word "lingerie" out of your mind when shopping. My camis were actually part of a sportswear collection and walked down a runway during NYC fashion week with a matching sexy skirt.

Bottom line: buy what works and buy them before your surgery so you don't have to be burdened with shopping right after.

I've tracked down a few options that should work since sadly, mine are now considered "vintage."
buy here: Zimmerli // Cosabella // Gap Body // Splendid // Wolford

If you have any interest in buying my original version, shoot me an email...I'm working on bringing these cool kinds of things to market!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Teenager Angela Zhang Fights Cancer with Award-Winning Discovery

Angela Zhang is only 17 and while she doesn't have cancer she's already working on a cure. She's created a nanoparticle which targets and destroys cancer cells and then monitors the treatment response. She likens her invention to a "swiss army knife," a tool known for it's precision and reliability, because it can deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancer cells without harming any of the surrounding healthy tissue.

Zhang was awarded the grand prize a few months ago, a $100,000 scholarship, by the Siemens Competition in Math Science and Technology. She plans to continue studying chemical engineering, biological engineering and physics with the goal of becoming a research professor "to make new innovations possible."

Angela Zhang holding her ceremonial $100,000 scholarship check
image source

Zhang started reading doctorate-level papers on bio-engineering when she was just a mere freshman in high school!  not too shabby...

Cool Girls Cure Cancer.