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Survivor Stories 2013: Laurel Kamen

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Survivor Stories 2013:
Laurel Kamen

1. How did you first find out you had cancer?

My gynecologist felt a lump during my routine examination. A mammogram confirmed a mass was in my left breast, and a lumpectomy confirmed that I had cancer.

2. How did you react when you heard the news?

I had a sinking feeling that I was losing control of my future. The doctor was speaking to me but it was as if she was mouthing the words and I couldn’t hear or grasp what she was saying.

3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?

It was prescribed that I have a mastectomy on the left side.  After much thought, research and soul searching, I decided to have a double mastectomy.

4. What surprised you about your treatment?

A week after my surgery, the surgeon told me that I was a genius—because a worse, undetected cancer had been discovered in my right breast. She told me that I had saved my own life—now that was a real surprise!

5.What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?

Don’t keep it a secret. Reach out to family and friends and seek their support and warmth. The feeling of love from others will give you great strength as you go through the experience.

6. How long have you been cancer free?

I have been cancer free since October, 2011.

7.What lessons did you learn from the experience?

I learned that we are all “survivors”—not just the woman diagnosed with breast cancer, but the family, friends and supporters who go through the experience with you.  Husbands, children, parents and dedicated medical professionals are all to be embraced as they can help to carry you through the dark times.

I also learned to move forward by doing something positive. The night before my surgery I had an idea. While preparing for my surgery, I couldn’t find any attractive clothes that were designed for women recovering from breast cancer treatments. I called my best friend, Christine Irvin, asked her to join me in a business to design and sell beautiful clothing and accessories for women –whether they were recovering from surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.  “I’m in, she said.

We reached out to my cousin, a dress designer in New York City, and 13 months later we launched the Alloro Collection.  We addressed 20 different challenges a woman goes through when she undergoes treatment—difficulty with arm motion,   chest pain and side sensitivity, burning, hot flashes, neckline changes, and surgical drainage tubes—and designed clothing that is comfortable but also beautiful.

8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there—what would it be?

Embrace the positive parts of your life, whatever they are, because that fuels your recovery.  And know there are thousands of supportive women who are your sisters in this family you never thought you’d be a part of.  No woman has to face this alone.

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