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Website helps cancer patients stay stylish, feel better

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop

Lisa Lurie and Ellen Weiss Kander couldn’t control what was happening inside their bodies from treatment for life-threatening illnesses.

But they could do something about their outer appearance.

The best friends from Squirrel Hill refused to let the breast cancer and a rare blood disorder steal their sense of style. They wanted to look and feel fashionable while going through ruthless doses of chemotherapy and the emotional roller coaster of being sick.

“No one can prepare you for day-to-day living while going through cancer,” says Lurie, who had a double mastectomy in 2008. “I didn’t have a long time to prepare for what was about to happen to me, from how I was going to look, to all of the side effects from the medications. There was a time I thought, ‘I don’t know this person.’

“And I thought about crawling up into a ball and feeling sorry for myself, but then, I thought, ‘I can do something to help other women not have to endure all the unknowns alone.’ ”

Lurie, 50, phoned Kander, 49, and the two recently launched a website, www.cancerbeglammed.com . It provides women with easy online access to more than 200 products for post-op necessities, fashion finds, pampering products and gifts.

“Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you have to fall into a fashion black hole,” Lurie says.

Items include beautiful scarves that cover the entire head. Feminine-design bras include built-in features to hold drainage tubes. There are even strapless mastectomy bras. Cancer patients often need clothing made from fabric that wicks away moisture. The site includes cover-ups with built in sun protection, because of light sensitivity. The site includes tea sets to help combat the possible metallic taste in your mouth from treatment.

While developing their project , Lurie and Kander conferred with other women, as well as oncologists and oncology nurses.

Lurie didn’t have much time before her treatment to find the products she’d need because she wasn’t sure where to look.

“I wanted to dress better because I had young daughters and a husband, and I wanted to have a nice head cover and didn’t want to dress like I looked sick,” Lurie says. “I was bald and I lost both my breasts and my skin looked terrible. But I was determined to not let cancer rob me of my self-esteem.”

Kander recalls getting dressed up like she was going out for the night, when, in fact, she was walking into the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside. Steroids changed the appearance of her body.

“I could not give in to the lure of sweatpants,” says Kander, who was treated in 2005. “I didn’t want to look sick. I tried to have a good attitude about it. Lisa and I understand what it’s like to go through a scary diagnosis, surgery, treatment and recovery. There’s an intention behind every product on our site. We hope our site can help reduce some of the stress, fatigue and guesswork when it comes to finding stylish products and clothing.”

The site has been wonderful, says Rebecca Fishel Bright, from Harmony, Beaver County, who heard about it when she was at Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania, in the Strip District, a place where those living with cancer go for support.

“When I looked at the site, I was blown away,” Fishel Bright says. “I didn’t expect it to be near as comprehensive. It is wonderful because there are days it is hard to stay upright, because you don’t have the energy to go out shopping. I was like a kid in a candy store because there were so many things I would need and they were right there at my fingertips.”

A percentage of proceeds go to cancer support organizations.

Look good to feel good

Nearly 740,000 American women are expected to develop some type of cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Preserving what is “undeniably you” after a cancer diagnosis can be extremely challenging. A guide called “What the Doctor Didn’t Order” offers products and tips you need to help you recover in comfort and style. Some tips:

• Dressing well is all about enhancing your best features and distracting away from, or minimizing, the ones you don’t want to call attention to. Choose clothes that you enjoy wearing and that fit well. Accessorize to tie your look together.

• Vertical lines and stripes elongate your figure and are more flattering than horizontal lines.

• Wearing monochromatic colors slenderizes.

• Warm, soft colors enhance skin tones.

• Avoid the temptation to wear overly-large, unstructured clothing. Choose clothes that skim your body and fit comfortably.

• Fabric choice is important. Lightweight materials that breathe — cotton, silk, linen and wicking fabrics — will keep you comfortable and cool.

Details: www.cancerbeglammed.com .


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