When my marriage ended after 13 years, I had to prepare myself to raise my two children, Eden and Adam, as a single mother. I was 40, and this time felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. But, amidst these changes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In two months, I lost both of my breasts, a ton of weight, and all my hair. I went from being a healthy young woman to a cancer patient who would endure a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
My family stood beside me, my children ever helpful – but there’s something about losing your femininity that strips you as a woman. My whole body-image and self-esteem were under attack; I was uncomfortable, insecure, and clueless. I needed things to help me function and I didn’t have any idea what they were and where to find them.
I’ll be honest, I was frustrated!! The gap between knowing I was one out of eight women in this world battling breast cancer, to the lack of products, safe makeup, and comfortable clothing I had at my disposal, was inconceivable. When I did learn what I could use, it was too difficult to find products that I liked.
I spent hours exploring the Internet for clothing, lotions, and products that would help raise my spirits. But, finding a wig, cute “cancer” clothing and non-toxic lotion that smelled nice were more difficult to find than I had realized. There was no site out there offering lotions, nail polishes, clothing, and pre/post surgery specifics for women coping with breast cancer. That’s how I thought of CureDiva.
Once I became stronger, I wanted to meet other women like myself who were looking to help those battling a breast cancer diagnosis. I started learning the market by joining online communities, reading blogs, and making a feasibility study. I flew to the Cancer For Young Women (C4YW) conference in Orlando and met with amazing business women, also suffering like me, who taught me how to make this dream of helping people into a business. I believed in this so much, this dream of helping other survivors, that on my road to recovery I sold my house to get the finances to launch the site.
I met Tovi, the co-founder of CureDiva and fellow breast cancer survivor, in the waiting room of the oncologist’s office. We realized that we had many goals and dreams in common, and soon after we teamed up. Together, Tovi and I worked hard to find brands that sold bras for women post-mastectomy, beauty lines that provided non-toxic lotions, fashionable clothing women could wear to check-ups, and more. We also sat down and discussed the most intuitive flow of the website to help everyone dealing with breast cancer, from those who had been newly diagnosed to long-time survivors. We tested every product, thinking “Would this have helped us?” It’s amazing what surviving something like a cancer diagnosis can teach you!
All of this collaboration made me remember the emotional turmoil I went through post-diagnosis. It’s a truly difficult time — one that you, your family, and your friends must understand and overcome together. Therefore, I knew that it wasn’t enough to just offer products. We also needed to create a community so that women and their families had a place to go to talk about “The Big C” and learn from each other.
Using social media, Tovi and I set out to create a network of women that could understand and relate to our vision. I met Ann Marie Otis, one of our closest friends, through Twitter! She posted about her diagnosis and I reached out as a fellow survivor. Today, she’s a huge advocate of CureDiva. In fact, most of the content on the site has come from newly formed friendships through the diagnosis. Breast cancer creates a sisterhood like no other.
In October of 2013, our vision finally came to life when we launched CureDiva.com. Today, we offer over 130,000 products to help women get through every stage of their breast cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment to remission, as well as a supportive community of women coping with breast cancer. I love that I’ve been able to parlay my breast cancer ordeal into something positive. I’m able to help other women get through the scariest time in their lives with their heads held high, a community of support, and their femininity intact.