By: Allana Maiden, Guest Contributor
Image by AFP/Getty Images from cbsnews.com
Like most people today, my life has been impacted by cancer. At the young age of 36 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; she went through chemotherapy and then a single mastectomy. While she was going through all of this, she was also faced with the daunting task of caring for then six-year-old me. At the time I didn’t really understand what was happening, and my mom made sure not to let her fight with cancer change our lives at home. Life carried on like usual, mom dropped me off at school, dad picked me up. We ate dinner together, watched TV, played games, and lived our lives. Mom told me that she was sick and that was why we had to shave her head and why she went to the doctor, but she told me the doctors would make her better and that was enough for me. She was confident that she would get better and that confidence has stuck with me all these years.
I want to be a woman that my mom will be proud of. That desire is what prompted me to start a campaign on Change.org asking Victoria’s Secret to create a line of mastectomy bras for survivors like my mom. In the 20+ years since her mastectomy, my mom has been forced to buy the same boring bras that often look like they are relics from Soviet-era Russia. I wanted her to be able to have beautiful bras and to buy them at the same stores where other women shop. Victoria’s Secret is the name in bras, so I approached them with my idea and the over 120,000 signatures on my petition.
After delivering my petition to VS headquarters in New York and then flying out to VS parent company Limited Brands’ headquarters in Columbus, I thought that the “Survivor” line was a possibility. However, they decided not to launch the line saying that the science behind a line of mastectomy bras is too complicated. While this is not the outcome that I ultimately wanted, because of launching the petition I met some incredible people and that led me to Nordstrom, where I learned about their prosthesis program. I was able to take my mom to the Nordstrom near my home and their amazing staff helped her pick out some beautiful bras that their seamstresses sewed pockets into for her prosthesis. Nordstrom offers this service for free. They will sew pockets into any bra in their store. My mom now has bras in colors and prints for the first time since her surgery. This may seem like a small victory, but because it is a victory for her I am more than happy with it.
Even though things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, I learned so much, and the experience was amazing. I met some of the most amazing people and was able to do things I could never have dreamed of. I was even interviewed by Chelsea Clinton for Rock Center with Brian Williams! She was in my house, along with a film crew and producers from the show. I got to be on national television, which for a PR major was pretty cool. But most of all, I got to share something special with my mom. Even though she was nervous about the interviews and that night we got stuck in Boston was a little rough, it was a great experience to share with her.
In our interview with Chelsea Clinton, she asked me if I thought one person could change the world. I think that one person can change the world in his or her own small way. Working in an animal shelter I am fond of the saying, “Saving one dog’s life might not change the world, but it changed the world for that one dog.” That is what I was trying to do. A line of mastectomy bras may not change the world, but it would have changed the world for my mom. The “Survivor” line could have done that for all survivors and still can if someone else chooses to make them.
Little victories are what make the world go round. Every day people have little victories in their lives and these accomplishments fuel them to go on each day. I think it is important to embrace those victories and build on them. If you can learn to do this then nothing can bring you down and we can all work together to change the world.
About Allana: Allana grew up in a small town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. She enjoys laying in her porch swing with a good book and a cold glass of lemonade. She spends her days saving lives working at a no-kill animal shelter and comes home to her husband and two rambunctious canines.