Oct. 13, 2022

Things You Need For Surgery with Dana Donofree

Things You Need For Surgery with Dana Donofree

Dana Donofree & Kristen outline the essential shopping list for surgery and recovery, from what to bring to the hospital through the different stages of recovery.

Dana Donofree & Kristen outline the essential shopping list for surgery and recovery, from what to bring to the hospital through the different stages of recovery.

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About Breast Cancer Stories

Breast Cancer Stories follows Natasha Curry, a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital, through her experience of going from being a nurse to a patient after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Natasha was in Malawi on a Doctors Without Borders mission in 2021 when her husband of 25 years announced in a text message that he was leaving. She returned home, fell into bed for a few weeks, and eventually pulled herself together and went back to work. A few months later when she discovered an almond-sized lump in her armpit, she did everything she tells her patients not to do and dismissed it, or wrote it off as a “fat lump."

Months went by before Natasha finally got a mammogram, but radiology saw nothing in either breast. It was the armpit lump that caught their attention. Next step was an ultrasound, where the lump was clearly visible. One painful biopsy later, Natasha found out she had cancer; in one life-changing moment, the nurse became the patient.

This podcast is about what happens when you have breast cancer, told in real time.

Host and Executive Producer: Eva Sheie
Co-Host: Kristen Vengler
Editor and Audio Engineer: Daniel Croeser
Theme Music: Them Highs and Lows, Bird of Figment
Production Assistant: Mary Ellen Clarkson
Cover Art Designer: Shawn Hiatt

Breast Cancer Stories is a production of The Axis.


Special Guest: Dana Donofree.


Eva Sheie (00:04): You're listening to The Breast Cancer Stories Podcast. Our mission with this podcast is to help you and the people who love you through the shock of diagnosis and treatment.

Kristen Vengler (00:13): I'm Kristen Vengler, and today I'll be honest, I'm a little giddy because we have a special guest I've been raving about for the last two years and I cannot wait for you to meet her.

Eva Sheie (00:23): I'm Eva Sheie and my co-host Kristen is such an organized, thoughtful list maker and planner that a few months back we decided to do a special episode called The Things You Need for Radiation. And I'll put that in the show notes. Today, however, we are doing the things you need for surgery.

Kristen Vengler (00:39): And our guest for this is an expert in the things you need for surgery.

Kristen Vengler (00:46): Dana Donofree is the CEO and founder of AnaOno. Dana founded AnaOno out of her own necessity and desire for not only beautiful but comfortable lingerie after her cancer diagnosis in 2010. With a degree in fashion design from Savannah College of Art and Design and a successful industry career, she took her experience and applied it toward launching AnaOno Intimates Designed Differently. Dana's story has been featured on USA Today, the Today Show, New York Times, and many others. She's been listed as an Inc 100 Female Founder, Forbes Next 1000 and Vogue has highlighted AnaOno as a brand modernizing bras. Even with these accomplishments, she is most proud of making a difference in the lives of people worldwide and is honored to continue to spread her mission of boob inclusive because everyone deserves to feel beautiful. One breast, two breasts, no breasts or new breasts. Welcome Dana.

Dana Donofree (01:40): Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Eva Sheie (01:44): Okay, you gotta start with what is boob inclusion.

Kristen Vengler (01:47): .

Dana Donofree (01:49): So I've, I've had AnaOno for eight and a half years, but I conceptualized it in 2011 a year after my mastectomy and reconstruction. And so it's been a long time I've been trying to change the conversation, pointing out that we're not just humans walking around wanting and desiring two breasts, whether we have them or don't have them, whether we've lost them or we've decided to remove them. And it just kinda came to this place where we were sitting here and we're like, inclusion, diversity and equity and you know, all of these conversations are picking up which they should be. They absolutely should be. But I still sit here and I grapple with myself because every bra line known to humans is making bras for people with two breasts. Even the old school mastectomy bras are made, so when you amputate your breasts from your body, you replace them with breast forms and you continue to kind of keep living your life as normal. Right?

Dana Donofree (02:50): But we know for those of us that have been there and done this, this is not normal. Our lives are not normal. They are very complicated. They are full of trauma. We've been through multiple surgeries and I just, I wanted to bring attention that there's millions of us that are living without breasts or living with one breast or living with rebuilt breasts. And let's just talk about it. Let's just have the real conversation about it. Let's not pretend that this isn't happening on the side. So boob inclusive was born. For us, it really is two boobs, one boob, no boobs or new boobs. We want everybody to feel just as beautiful and sexy as they were before their cancer diagnosis. And we know that that's not easy. That's very, very hard, very complicated, but we wanna at least give the pathway to getting there.

Eva Sheie (03:42): Is that a sticker that I can get from my sticker collection? Cause it's so funny.

Dana Donofree (03:47): Ooh, stickers. I would love that. Yeah, we should. You never really know how things start and where it's going to end. But we did have a great time with our boob inclusive bomber, which celebrated our eight years in business and it was an anniversary month special. Again, it's like how can you bring awareness with art and conversation? That's really where I dive into. It's like, breast cancer really does touch almost every single one of us in some way, shape, or form. So to me that's that impact of being able to educate and inform even in its simplest ways.

Eva Sheie (04:22): Yeah. So both of you have had several surgeries. I think for the purpose of what we're talking about today for the shopping list, we're talking about the mastectomy surgery, but I think it's important to kind of give an overview of what you've already been through so we know where you're coming from with your recommendations.

Kristen Vengler (04:43): I'll let you go first, Dana.

Dana Donofree (04:46): So my first surgery was in 2010. I got diagnosed with breast cancer a day before my 28th birthday and didn't have a huge family history of any sorts of cancer. So it came as a complete shock to myself and my fiance and my family. We were getting planning to get married and two months had to cancel and postpone and rearrange our entire lives. And that's what happens when you get cancer. I say all that because in 2010, I mean we're talking about 12 years ago now, surgery was very, very different a decade ago. And there's been so many improvements and so many impactful outrageously patient benefiting procedure advancements, which is great. So I won't divulge too much on where I was because I think it's not as relevant as it is today. But I did recently, just in December of last year, undergo conversion of under the muscle to over the muscle with my breast implants.

Dana Donofree (05:42): And that to me has been a completely game changing, life changing procedure in so many ways. I mean, I spent the last 10 years in pretty severe back and shoulder and neck pain. I've been really limited on my physical activity because of the implants being under the muscle. So going over the muscle was really impactful, but things are different. What I needed for my mastectomy recovery was very different than what I needed for my revision recovery. There's multiple different phases to the cancer post-op schedule and yeah, I'm excited to sort of share my experience but take it away, Kristen.

Kristen Vengler (06:17): Well those who've been listening for a while pretty much know my story, but I had a double mastectomy a year ago last June. And with that I did reconstruction and I had the expanders, then I did radiation. So that added a whole other situation. And then I had the exchange surgery where they took out the expanders and put in the implants and I'm about 13 weeks out of having the fat transfer. And so the surgeries are real fresh in my mind. And when was your revision? It was pretty recent.

Dana Donofree (06:48): Yeah, just about eight months ago.

Kristen Vengler (06:50): Okay. How are you feeling from that? Do you feel like,

Dana Donofree (06:53): I mean, I feel great. I healed very, very quickly. It was not at all from the mastectomy to the expanders to the exchange that was felt a lot more traumatic and a lot more difficult to recover from. This surgery has been more difficult to recover because of different reasons. Going from under to over the muscle was like, I immediately woke up and my doctor Dr. Israeli at NYBRA said, How do you feel? And the first words that came outta my mouth were, My back pain is gone. And I was shocked that it was so immediate I thought it was gonna be something I was going to transition out of over time. So when I tell you I was going to physical massage therapy for scar tissue and chiropractic care for my back every week for the last 10 years of my life, every week. And if I missed one or two weeks, I paid for it dramatically.

Dana Donofree (07:47): And so I was living in pretty severe pain and to wake up in an instant and have that pain gone was a shock factor. So I'm just giving my mind and body time to heal. But I think it's a really important thing to talk about. Surgeries are very traumatic to the human body, so you've gotta be prepared for that. And I think too, this isn't just one surgery. You've been through multiple surgeries, I've been through multiple surgeries. So it's, you've gotta be mindful of that too. How much can you endure and what can your body really handle and what does that look like for each individual person? But that's been sort of my experience with this most recent one.

Eva Sheie (08:31): Did anyone ever explain maybe why having implants under the muscle would've caused you that much trouble.

Dana Donofree (08:37): Your implants go under the muscle, which was pretty much the only way it was done, when I had surgery. You had two options really for implant surgery when I was operated on. One was called a lat flap, l a t. The lat flap takes a part of your latissimus dorsi muscle, carves it out, flips it around to the front, gives a support system to the implants. That was not often done where I was living at the time, Colorado, because most of the women that were getting the operations were very active athletes and rock climbers and things like that. So sort of dissecting that back muscle became not in practice because people couldn't function. So instead they, I sort of say filet, but if you've butterflied a steak before or a piece of chicken, you know cut it in half and then you open it up, well that's what they do to your chest wall muscle.

Dana Donofree (09:23): If they don't do the lat flap, it was in practice to filet your chest wall muscle and insert the implant in between your chest wall so your chest muscle loses 50% of its functionality. You can't do push ups, you can't do, I mean exercise becomes very difficult cause you're only using half of your chest wall. Well of course you cut into any major muscle, you're gonna probably likely have other issues. I already had a messed up back cause I was a dancer my whole life. So I think it just exacerbated a lot of already early injuries in my body. But now that my chest muscle has been put back together, I could tell you I'm standing taller, my shoulders sit back better, which has released all of my neck pain cause my muscles were in a constant state of stress. So now what's happened is they've really started to perfect the procedure of keeping the chest muscle intact and being able to put the implant on top of it. Nothing's perfect in reconstructive surgery. You will never have what you lost. This is just a replacement item. And I think that those expectations, although plastic surgeons strive so much to give you the best, most optimal results humanly possible, they still will never replace your breast.

Kristen Vengler (10:44): Yeah.

Eva Sheie (10:46): Let's get to the fun part. Let's talk about shopping.

Dana Donofree (10:49): .

Kristen Vengler (10:52): Okay.

Dana Donofree (10:52): Let's take it front in timeline order from, let's start with what you need on the way in and while you're at the hospital.

Dana Donofree (11:00): I mean I'll go first because I think this exact conversation is 110% the reason why I made AnaOno. Everything that we're about to talk about is I just could not believe how unprepared I was when I rolled into my mastectomy surgery. First of all, I was 27 years old, so let's account for that. I never had had a major operation except for my wisdom teeth being pulled out and my tonsils. And I never had to stay overnight in a hospital. I understood to a certain extent what I was about to enter into. But not really because this is 2010, we did not have the internet like it is today. We were barely on Instagram. Facebook was legitimately your friends. And I didn't meet another young person with breast cancer. I didn't meet barely anybody with breast cancer. So I had nobody to talk to, to get ideas of how am I even supposed to embark on this. So I love this conversation and the reason why I wanna start off because I went to the hospital, like you would, in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Cause what else do you go to the hospital with? So when they said you're not gonna be able to move your arms after your mastectomy surgery, that didn't compute to like, oh I can't put on a shirt.

Dana Donofree (12:28): So I literally had to send friends out of, my neighbor friends, to Costco to get me a zipper hoodie so I could leave the hospital in one piece and not in the surgical bra in the freezing temperatures of Colorado . Yeah. Cause I went to the hospital with a hoodie, a t-shirt and sweatpants. That seems like the quintessential hospital outfit. No it's not. Not when you have a mastectomy surgery, no. You must have something that closes and opens in the front. So I go into this zipper hoodie, I have my drain tubes that are the tubes that extract the extra fluids so you can heal faster from the mastectomy, safety pinned to the straps of my surgery bra that I'm already calling the iron maiden, because it's up to my collarbone. It's like it's squeezing my rib cage in places, like I feel like there's an elephant sitting on my chest. I have these blood bulbous, things safety pinned to my face practically, and then a hoodie sweatshirt. And I was like, this is horrible. This is so disturbing that this is how I'm expected to walk out of this place. Like a dissected human, is really what it felt like.

Kristen Vengler (13:44): Yeah, I mean I can't imagine those drains. They're like goiters on your neck almost because they're so high. And Eva and I were having the conversation about how people are like, "Oh just safety pin to the bottom of your bra". I'm like, really? Cuz you just had surgery and you want something else pulling down, you can't even move. Any movement hurts.

Dana Donofree (14:08): All of that movement hurts. And even still, So then I have this one zipper hoodie and then I'm like, okay, well now what do I wear? So my mom ran out to Marshall's because I had nothing... When I'm saying there was zero prep, there was zero prep. I did not realize it was this complicated. So she runs out to Marshalls. The only robe that they had in my size was like this, I actually still have it in my sample room. I should frame it one day.

Kristen Vengler (14:33): You should.

Dana Donofree (14:34): Was like this teal, turquoise terry robe with ruffles around the neck, ruffles around the arm. And I looked at, my mom was like, this was all that was there. I'm a New York fashion designer at this point in time in my life. I'm like chic and I'm sophisticated and I'm sexy and I'm all of these things. I'm like, Mom, really?

Dana Donofree (14:54): She's like, this is the only thing that they had. And what did I do? I lived in that gross, disgusting terry robe for weeks on end. Neighbors were coming by, friends were coming by., people were bringing me food... Hot mess express on my end. And then that is so much why I designed all the solutions I designed with AnaOno because I was like, okay, so I needed a robe, I needed something to hold the drains. How do I get all of these things into one garment, one piece? And it was then the Miena robe was born and the Abby lounge pant with the hidden pockets. And I'm just like, I wanna feel good. I still wanna feel like myself even though I'm like this dissected human. I just wanna feel beautiful. Why can't I have that one simple thing? And anyway, so now I went to my surgery in the Miena Robe and the Abby pants. So I actually used all my products for the first time in December. The real time. So it was kind of full circle, right? I mean I invented and created because of solving my own problems, but I never actually had everything in use. So now I was like, Oh yeah, this is great. Oh man, I wish I had had this 10 years ago. .

Kristen Vengler (16:05): I didn't realize that the Abby pants have places for the drains until my second surgery. I wore 'em, I wore 'em for, I don't know, six months, eight months before that. And then I was like, it's a little thing for my key. And I'm like, no, there's two. It's for the drains. So that was ingenious.

Dana Donofree (16:25): I don't know if it was like this for you, but when I got diagnosed, especially back then it was everybody was just sending me all of this... I'm gonna say crap because it was really crap that just had pink ribbons on it. And like, you know, there was surgical tops, but oh my god, do they look like a surgical top? I'm like not wearing it, not. I'm just like, I will find another solution for myself. And I'm just like, I'm not wasteful. So even we have this beautiful robe, it's got a detachable drain belt, but that's how you can throw the drain belt in the trash when you don't need it anymore. And you can burn it, you can do whatever you wanna do with it, but you're not throwing away a really beautiful piece of apparel because it's made outta this buttery modal material. It's soft, it's cozy. I don't want to have to buy something just because I need it for a moment in time.

Kristen Vengler (17:17): Absolutely. Well and making it something that's useful afterward is so huge because I have a whole plastic bin that is things for surgery , I mean need to pass it on now. But because I knew I was gonna have more surgeries and though I'm not using any of those things anymore except for the clothing that I got from AnaOno. And the thing I'll say is I can count on one hand how many times in the past year and a half since I started chemo that I actually felt halfway attractive between losing your hair, between gaining weight, between all of the swelling. I still am working on edema in my legs, and all of that. You just don't feel like yourself, and then you try to put pants on that maybe have a waistband and you're like okay. And so having something that moves with your body is essential.

Kristen Vengler (18:22): Okay, so I'm gonna like fangirl a little bit. Everybody who's been listening to this knows that I cry easily. But really Dana, one of the reasons that I started following you and I started that I really wanted you on the show and connected with you. People are gonna be like, Oh Kristen, really? She's sitting right there. How much are you gonna kiss up? But truly, AnaOno's clothing and bras, lingerie, loungewear changed how I feel every day and I can put things on that I know are gonna be quick and easy and comfortable. And you really did change my life at a time in my life when I didn't know if I was gonna live or not. And it's the biggest gift truly. And so I just wanna really, really from the bottom of my heart say thank you for going before me. I'm sorry that you went before me in this way, but for making something beautiful out of something that was so hard and you've changed so many lives. So I just wanna say thank you and

Dana Donofree (19:30): I really appreciate you saying that because this is hard. Running this business and building a business is one of the hardest things I've done in my entire life. I love it. But it's hard. And for me it's making clothes, it's the easy part cause I've done it my entire life. But I just, I say over and over that AnaOno is more than a bra. And the reason why I say this is cuz it's that to me personally. It was like, just how distraught and disturbed I was looking at my body in the mirror and feeling like I wasn't attractive anymore. That my fiance, my soon to be husband, was not gonna find me sexy because my nipples were gone. So much of it was for me, not for you, but it was my body, it was my mind, it was my heart that was broke and I was just trying to put my pieces back together.

Dana Donofree (20:23): And I knew why I was so broken and I had the tools in my own toolbox to fix my life. I never expected or intended for that to affect other people's lives. But I'm so honored that it is and it does because for me it was like... I cried over and over again in these dressing rooms. I cried every time I went clothes shopping. I cried every time I looked in the mirror. And I'm not a crier. Like for me, my life, I was raised by a dad... Tough girls don't cry. And I'm a tough girl. I just was built that way. I've got really thick skin. I've been in the industry for way too damn long, it's all of those things. And I just, it's like to hear that is, that's the encouragement and the energy and the power that I need to absorb to keep going.

Dana Donofree (21:13): And my ultimate goal is that people newly diagnosed don't have to cry in those dressing rooms. They don't have to feel that way. If we can get there and we can help keep the pieces together on the very, very bottom, bottom level, then maybe there's hope that you can recover better because you feel better. And I just was like, I hit all that rock bottom so many times and I was just like, I don't want somebody else to have to go through this. So thank you for sharing that little piece of your life with me because that is it. It's true. I tell people all the time, this can be life changing. And I'm not saying that because I'm taking it to some level that it doesn't need to be. It's because of the stories that people share with me that I know, it's like sometimes the simplest things in your life are the most impactful.

Kristen Vengler (22:02): Absolutely. Well and I found it because my cousin sent me this robe. And we got so off and we talked about our so much.

Dana Donofree (22:11): There's so many good stories behind that robe. But it's only one thing you need. So next you need front closure bras, which you're wearing one of my favorites for my exchange surgery today, the Bianca. But there's like, we have two different front closure bras and there's, there's a lot of front closure bras out there. So just that's what you need. That's what you get. I wanna remind everybody that if you are undergoing a mastectomy surgery preventative or due to a diagnosis, you have full access, your health insurance benefits should recover anywhere from about four to six brass a year as a part of your treatment and therapy. So feel free to reach out to us@anaono.com. We can get you reimbursable receipts, we can direct you to a store in your area. But we have two versions. One, it's very, very soft for sort of the early part of your process.

Dana Donofree (23:01): The initial mastectomy surgery, definitely if you're in expanders because a compression is not often a requirement at that phase unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Flap surgeries that are a little bit more intensive surgeries. So the Rora is really, really soft. It's made outta that buttery modal. There's no seams that are going to hurt you or poke you in places. And then the one that you're wearing, the Bianca has a little bit more compression. So I lived in the Bianca after my exchange surgery cause I needed a little bit more structure. I needed a little bit more pressure around my chest when I went over the muscle. But that's sort of the two ideas behind the two different front closure bras. But both for postoperative care.

Kristen Vengler (23:42): Yes, absolutely. And the other bra that I wore constantly was the Leslie. And I didn't put it over my head. I pulled it up over my hips and up.

Dana Donofree (23:53): Designed to step into.

Kristen Vengler (23:54): Seriously. Yeah, I have four of them. I used them for radiation too.

Dana Donofree (23:58): Well that's great for the expanders. Cause you should talk a little bit about the expanders since it's so fresh. How was that for you? Was your skin tight? I was so uncomfortable during the expansion process. It was horrible.

Kristen Vengler (24:10): It was horrible. So the expanders, for anybody who doesn't know and maybe you're a caregiver or you're about to have surgery, the expanders are necessary because it's like a placeholder for where your implants are going to go. So it's really only in reconstructive surgery that you're gonna have those. And so it's basically flat on the bottom and then there's a pocket that holds saline. There's like a little port in it. And so your expanders are filled with saline to get to whatever size is right for your body or whatever you've talked with your plastic surgeon about. And they're rigid on the bottom and they're not comfortable. It does feel like a basketball, the flat basketball on your chest and your skin is just, it literally expanding. And so having something that's soft, I had the Rora and Leslie for after my mastectomy and the Bianca was better for the last two surgeries. You really do want something that's soft. So then with the expanders with radiation, that one side gets much tighter. And so Eva and I laughed a lot cause she called them my Franken boobs .

Dana Donofree (25:31): I called them my SpongeBob Square Tits seriously. Totally. Yeah.

Eva Sheie (25:38): The badly wrapped package.

Dana Donofree (25:39): Yes, my Lego locks anything square because my expanders back then were square. They were literally building blocks. There was one square on the back and then there's another square on the front. And as they got filled up, the second depository would expand and I literally had squares on my chest. So before I started AnaOno, I understood how I couldn't fit a square boob into a round bra. It made a lot of sense to me. That's why there was the problem.

Kristen Vengler (26:06): I had no concept

Dana Donofree (26:11): Yeah. So now the expanders are actually kind of round, kind of . But yeah, so we had square expanders back then. My SpongeBob Square Tits.

Kristen Vengler (26:21): . My God.

Dana Donofree (26:24): And I think it's important that part of that rigidness during the expansion process, this is an important thing to talk about because that is why you have to look for soft structured bras, tank tops, camisoles, things like that. Because those rigid objects inside your body are not squishing and moving and moving around into a regular cup of a bra. They're not where they land on your chest, and where they're getting expanded is exactly where they will stay. You do not move these things around. You do not lift them into a pushup bra. We don't squish them together with the sports bra. Where they are, they are. And that is it.

Kristen Vengler (27:00): Exactly. They do not move. But with the bras, I think I probably had, this was probably three weeks before I could actually wear one after the mastectomy. And so you don't mess around with that, you know, do what they tell you to do. But those saved me. So we're talking a lot about clothing because we have the expert here. Something that's fun to talk about with your bras is they're named after people.

Dana Donofree (27:23): They are.

Kristen Vengler (27:24): Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Dana Donofree (27:26): Yeah, I love this part of AnaOno because something that was very new when we first launched, it was all about the people that we served. And I just thought it was really, really bizarre that when I was expected to buy a mastectomy bra, I was shopping for these bras on healthy, beautiful, gorgeous breasted women. I felt like there was a huge slap in my face. I'm not saying that we're not gorgeous, but it was just like, I can see her healthy boobs, I can see her healthy cleavage and you want me to think that that fits me when I know my boobs don't act like that anymore. And so what was really ingrained in us from the beginning, well, and not to mention I was just having to ask a lot of my beautiful friends to take off their clothes in front of cameras.

Dana Donofree (28:09): That was completely normal . And that's who was supporting me when I first started. So it happened so organically and I was trying to think of names for bras. And like all of my friends, all these beautiful people I was meeting, I was like, these are the names of why I'm here and what we're doing. And so every bra or design has a namesake. It can come from who's modeled it. It can come from a situation or a circumstance or somebody who's really inspired me. But I love that part. And it's always kind of bizarre how it happens. It just sort of embarks and embeds inside the story. And like the Miena robe for instance, I mean I could go on and on and on about Miena herself. But very quickly, I think what's really empowering and impactful is that she was a Pakistani woman and she was living with stage four metastatic breast cancer, which is the only breast cancer that kills.

Dana Donofree (29:05): And she knew she didn't have long and she wanted to bring awareness to the disease. And culturally speaking, this photo shoot was very inappropriate for her and her family. And she had a lot of issues with her family and what she was allowed to do and not allowed to do. And I was very open with her. I said, you know, we don't have to put you in a bra, but I don't really have any camisoles. We can do a robe, da da da. Well, eventually she said, you know what, I said there's not gonna be an opportunity I'm going to turn down cause I don't have much more time to live. And I want to do this no matter what it means because I think it's important that women from my culture understand what we're going through. And I said, I will support you in any which way possible.

Dana Donofree (29:48): And we brought her to the shoot and we had such a blast. Oh my god, did we have so much fun? Her smile, her energy, everything. And I named the robe Miena and I asked her if I could name the robe after her cuz she had really, really impacted me in my life in that moment. And had just a few weeks later, she passed away and I reached out to her son and I told her son, I said, I know what your mother was struggling with. I know what she was going through. We had a lot of really amazing talks. But I wanna let you know I have incredible, beautiful images of your mother where she is glowing and she is happy. And I said, but I understand your circumstances and I just want you to know if you ever want these images, I have them.

Dana Donofree (30:34): And they are yours. And he did write me back and he took the images where most of her clothes were on, which was completely fine and appropriate. But I just thought it was really special cause it was such a moment for her. And this is one of our longest items in our collection ever. I mean, this robe has been in our line for seven and a half years. So it's just really beautiful to me that I get to say her name every day. I know that that energy is walking its way into the hospital room or into the bedroom of every single amazing patient that gets it as a gift or buys it for themselves or whatever. That energy goes with that product. And I love that. And I just got chills so I know she's, she's with me. Yeah, I know. She's tapping on my shoulder.

Kristen Vengler (31:21): . I'm gonna be thinking about that all the time now with my robe every time. Yeah. What we're gonna do too is we're gonna have a full list in the show notes of suggestions cuz we're not gonna get to all of those things today. But when you're going to the hospital, a couple things that you really need are a pillow, obviously to sleep on comfortably, but also to put between your seatbelt and your chest when you're coming home. They have all kinds of mastectomy pillows and with pockets and different pink ribbons and all of that. But if you just get a small pillow that's comfortable and soft, that's essential. And a buddy who drives well and doesn't hit the bumps.

Dana Donofree (31:59): Yes.

Kristen Vengler (31:59): Basically has a sofa on wheels.

Dana Donofree (32:01): Yeah, comfortable car, seat belt pillow for sure. There's a park puff out there designed by another survivor herself, Rachel, she's..It's really so comfortable. I was like everywhere I drove, I held the seat belt away from my body with my two hands. I actually had a stuffed animal dog because they didn't make boob pillows when I was in surgery. I put my stuffed pillow dog because my husband brought it to me to the hospital. But yeah, those bumps, man, on your ride home, just yeah, if you've got somebody that's got a van or a Subaru, something, you can get Crown Victoria, Rolls Royce, whatever you do you. But it's like it, you're right.

Kristen Vengler (32:45): One of my favorites, and Dana, if you haven't discovered these, you need to. Have you ever heard of Kyte Baby, k- y- t- e? Eva turned me onto these and they make a lot of baby wear and baby sacks and all of that.

Eva Sheie (33:00): They have the best sleep sacks. Actually their sleep sacks are bamboo and they make them in three different weights. They were all the rage when I had my second daughter and that was how I got into them. And they're so soft that I was like, they must make adult pajamas in this fabric. And so I sent, they did and I sent some to Kristen just to see if she would even wear them.

Kristen Vengler (33:24): . Well, and you sent 'em to me during chemo. I was waking up three times a night, sweating, eating, popsicles, all of that. And so the ones that Eva sent me are kind of like joggers. It was a pullover long sleeve. And oh my gosh, I quit sweating and I became addicted to them. They also make some that open in the front and they make 'em in shorts and they make 'em in long pants and long sleeves. . I mean I would literally wear the shorts to that under my Miena robe. And also the rap dress that y'all have, I lived in that afterward because I actually felt cute in it. And I think we have a giveaway also.

Eva Sheie (34:09): We do. If you sign up for our newsletter, which is, the link is in the show notes, after this episode airs, we will give away a free pair of Kyte Baby pajamas.

Kristen Vengler (34:19): And then Dana has a surprise for us at the end too I think. So far we've talked about having a comfortable robe, Miena robe, I have to say it's essential. I wore mine home with my pajama bottoms and a comfortable pillow. So we're talking about basically what you're gonna take to the hospital with you when you get out of surgery, you have to wear their bras so you don't need to either, when you go to surgery,

Eva Sheie (34:47): They put you in it, don't they?

Kristen Vengler (34:48): Oh yeah. They put you in it during surgery and you don't take it off until they tell you to take it off. So when you pack your bag, you're gonna wanna have of course your phone charger, pajamas, robe your lounge pants. Also, something that I got was my simple modern, you want something with a straw because you're not gonna be lifting your hand like this you know, up to drink. I had two friends that got me those and I had no idea that I would need something really with a straw. And then when you get home, is like a pill sorter so that you can put all your meds that you've already picked up beforehand. You can have 'em ready and have a surgery buddy help you with that. A wedge pillow because you're basically creating a recliner in your bed cuz you can't, you're sleeping on your back. Eva and I shared a hotel room at a podcast convention about six months ago and she got to see my

Dana Donofree (35:43): your pillow structure.

Kristen Vengler (35:44): I called it my pillow throne. Yeah. Because I had a pillow under each arm. Also, just this a hint you, you don't even think about it, but if you have a pillow to support your arms, it's gonna help from pulling down on where incisions are and all of that. And they're gonna have you get some hibiclens, which is antibiotic special wash. And then something I didn't think of, but a friend told me and brought me some were body wash wipes. And I'm not talking about baby wipes. I'm talking about they're thick. They're almost like a washcloth that is disposable because I think it was two weeks before I could take a full shower. And so everybody wins if you use those

Dana Donofree (36:29): Yeah, I mean I think that how do you take care of yourself afterwards? I think we have to also remember that not everybody has a caregiver at home. So much of what you've already said, Kristen is so important. But that early prep before you go to the hospital too, take any cups or plates or things you're going to want to make for food, put them on your counter because you won't be able to reach into your cupboard. Making sure that on your refrigerator, if your freezer is on the top, that you've got things in your refrigerator that you can grab because you can't even reach into your freezer. Just making sure that things around you are very accessible, those small things that you don't think about, but just keep your bag light. Right, because you can't carry more than just holding more than one or two pounds.

Kristen Vengler (37:16): No.

Dana Donofree (37:17): So making sure that you keep it, you know, don't over pack for the hospital.

Kristen Vengler (37:20): No, don't. You really don't need to. So I think we've hit, Is there anything else that you're thinking of that we probably need for surgery?

Dana Donofree (37:27): No, I think that that's all great feedback for surgery and it's sort of my top items. I mean, just to recap, you need comfortable, easy to put on clothing, especially pants and you're not gonna be yanking up your yoga leggings and things like that because they just take too much effort. I love the slip on shoes. Huge. Huge game changer. Yeah, I love the pillows, body pillows, chest pillows, seatbelt pillows, pillow, pillow, pillows.

Kristen Vengler (37:56): Absolutely.

Eva Sheie (37:58): I wanna ask you Dana, one thing that we've been sort of quietly discussing is where do we put our other resources, our support, our time and eventually maybe dollars toward larger causes within breast cancer space? Because a lot of what we've seen, and I was already aware that the whole October pink tober thing, I really thought when they put the pink on KFC chicken buckets that we had probably gone too far.

Dana Donofree (38:33): .

Eva Sheie (38:34): That was like 10 years ago when I found that.

Dana Donofree (38:36): It's a lot.

Eva Sheie (38:37): You've been in the space for a minute now and I wonder if you have any thoughts you can share on fundraising within the breast cancer space and where you think we should approach directing our resources as people who wanna do more?

Dana Donofree (38:51): I love this question and thank you for asking that because it is really important and something we sort did touch on earlier was when I said I got a bunch of pink ribbon crap. I say this for the patients, for the caregivers, for the people that love those that have been affected and are lost to the disease, nine times outta 10, buying that pink ribbon tchotchke off of the shelf in the month of October in a major massive retailer, is likely not doing anything for the cause. That is when people profit from pink, right? It's October is not a holiday and breast cancer is not a celebration. It is very, very serious and we shouldn't have pink ribbons right next to Halloween decorations. It's been commercialized for the wrong reasons. It's not to say that, there's a lot of companies, there's a lot of people that have shopped to support programs during the month of October, which are really impactful.

Dana Donofree (39:48): I mean, some of these programs fund entire resources of nonprofits and organizations because of the shop to support. So if you're going to buy that pink ribbon merchandise because you want it or because somebody else you care for likes it, then just make sure you read the fine print. Is it going somewhere and to where? If it says 5% of net proceeds fund breast cancer awareness that money is going nowhere because they haven't identified a non-profit, They haven't told you where it's going and there is no dollar figure attached to it. But there are incredible programs. Breast Cancer Research Fund, they have a huge October shopping campaign because of all of the high fashion brands that they work with, and that makes up a huge portion of their budget. And they are actually researching the issues, causes prevention, disease progression, research, dollars matter for our disease.

Dana Donofree (40:41): It absolutely 100% does. If you have the means to give, give to an organization like METAvivor.org. They take 100% of your donation, and I'm going to say this again, 100% of your donated dollars will fund a scientist that is trying to help stage four metastatic breast cancer. We all win in that. Their administration fees, the ways that they run their organization is funded by other resources. So that means you give them a hundred dollars, that's a hundred dollars a scientist is going to receive for a grant to end stage four breast cancer, and it's it's terminal effects, right?.We want all cancer to be treated as a long term chronic illness. If we can get there, we really all win. So I just urge you that if it's $10 for a pink ribbon cup or it's a $10 donation to METAvivor, give the $10 to METAvivor.

Dana Donofree (41:40): It gives you the pathway to what it is that we need as a community. And it's so very important. I mean, there's other organizations that help support the patients themselves. Living Beyond Breast Cancer is an incredible organization that gives trusted information, a community of support. The Breasties is a beautiful organization for young women affected by gynecological and breast cancer. And there's a lot of local nonprofits. Almost every single city or state will have a local grassroots organization that's there to impact the lives of those that are diagnosed in your area, from trips to the doctor, to help with medical bills. So if that organization affects the patient directly, all thumbs up, give, give, give, support, volunteer, and get engaged, however you can do it. If an organization says that they fund breast cancer awareness, that time has passed. We're pretty aware. We're pretty aware that breast cancer's a problem. Yeah,

Eva Sheie (42:39): We know about it. Yeah. I live in Austin and my team here, our podcast team is going to, it's gonna sound a little funny, but there's an event called Scare for the Cure and the whole thing is to fund all the Austin area breast cancer organizations. And so we're helping build the haunted house. And the guy who put that on is like a Hollywood special effects guy and he builds the whole thing and all of the money, every single dollar goes to the local organizations.

Dana Donofree (43:09): Amazing, Amazing.

Eva Sheie (43:12): Thank you for everything today. Was really a treat to have you on and hear all of the great things that you're working on and where you've come from. And we agree it is hard to run, it's hard to run your own stuff, especially when you're dealing with chronic illness. Kristen and Dana's amazing list of what you need, we'll put into a very nice pdf. You can download it from the show notes, print it out, and go shopping. We'll make sure all those links are available. Of course, you can find all of the AnaOno products at AnaOno.com, but we are partners with AnaOno as an affiliate, so if you shop through us, we do get a little bit of support back for the show. So we appreciate it if you could use those links. And, thank you to Dana, our listeners also get an extra 15% off with the promo code STORIES15.

Eva Sheie (44:02): So you have to use our links and the promo code at the same time to get the 15% off and help us. So make sure you use the links in our show notes for that. If you're listening today, we wanna ask you for a special favor. If you love the podcast and have learned something from it, if it has helped you in any way, follow us on Apple Podcasts, tell your friends and write a review if you have a minute on Apple Podcast or wherever you're listening. If you would like to support our show with a one time or recurring donation, go to breast cancer stories podcast.com/donate and look for the donate link. You can now support breast cancer stories by becoming a premium subscriber on Apple Podcasts. You'll get early access to special episodes and support our efforts to continue helping women through the shock of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. And of course, to get special updates and be notified by email when a new episode is available, click the link in the show notes to sign up for our newsletter. And if you sign up for the newsletter one week from today, we will draw a winner from that list for the free Kyte Baby pajamas in whatever size you want. So

Speaker 4 (45:14): You're gonna love em.

Eva Sheie (45:16): They are amazing. Or if you have a baby or know someone who has a baby, you can also buy them something. Follow us on Instagram at Breast Cancer stories.

Eva Sheie (45:28): Thanks for listening to Breast Cancer Stories. If you're facing a breast cancer diagnosis and you want to tell your story on the podcast, send an email to hello@theaxis.io. I'm Eva Sheie, your host and executive producer. Production support for the show comes from Mary Ellen Clarkson and our engineer is Daniel Croeser. Breast Cancer Stories is a production of The Axis, the axis.io.

Dana DonofreeProfile Photo

Dana Donofree

CEO / Founder

Dana Donofree is the CEO and founder of AnaOno, a patient advocate for METAvivor, and a board member of The Breasties. Since her breast cancer diagnosis, she has developed all of her AnaOno products based on her experience to help other women feel confident and comfortable during breast cancer treatment, surgeries, and recovery.