Caroline’s Story Part 2

I’ve always loved lingerie. Before cancer I was that girl that wore matching sets even under a tracksuit (my lingerie was, and always will be, only for me!). It has the power to help me feel good about myself, gave me a secret confidence, was my armour, got me ready for my day, that was all BBC (before breast cancer).

I am not going to focus on treatment here there are lots of informative blogs for that. I want to focus on recovery and specifically the mental health aspect of my recovery. Post-surgery my scars were healed but my head wasn’t. I certainly never shared openly about the emotional rawness I felt, my mood, or my sense of loss. I felt I couldn’t talk openly about my emotional recovery because I was ashamed to have those feelings. I felt I should be grateful I no longer had cancer- everything else was vain and superficial, right?!

…wrong, what I know now is emotional recovery is as important as the physical recovery. 

Getting back to life is so hard. I had spent my life training my body in the gym and I felt it had let me down. A good friend said I should try Bikram yoga and to go along with her one Saturday, I had no clue what that meant, yoga is yoga right? Well no- Bikram yoga is 90 minutes open eyed meditation where it’s you and the mirror. You have no choice but to face yourself in that mirror. It’s not a pretty sight let me tell you when you are sweating buckets in the 40-degree heat and humidity, listening to the dialogue, following instruction while leaving your brain outside the door. But it gave me a ninety minute holiday every time I entered that room. It worked. It still does. What I found in this little community at B.E Bikram studio on Easter Road was another family. It helped me so much I am beyond grateful to Emma the owner of the studio. She told me I’d heal from the inside out and all I had to do was face myself in the mirror and the yoga would do the rest. It really helped me accept me, my strength and flexibility, my mind quietning. The room is filled with all shapes and sizes, men and women all ages with their own story no doubt. I learned we are capable of anything if we put our mind to it. We are all amazing humans and we all deserve to love ourselves, So I am forever grateful to my friend who dragged me along that fateful Saturday. It made me stronger mentally and physically and I learnt to accept me.

After breast cancer, dressing can be stressful due to the lack of choice on the market. I couldn’t find underwear that made me feel good or look good. On the outside I looked put-together but I knew that I was wearing a bra made from some poly, nylon, yuck fabric that wasn’t breathable and had industrial size straps that on my frame of 5ft3 felt like another top under my top. I decided to find out how other women who had gone through breast surgery felt and realised I wasn’t alone in feeling that I was somehow forgotten about by the lingerie market. How dare they considering pre cancer I dedicated lots of paychecks to them! It’s ironic really as the lingerie market is worth billions and yet our ever growing sector is being catered for primarily by medical brands.

I felt compelled to try to change this. All of the negative experiences helped when designing the initial collection. It’s a small collection trying to cover as many outcomes of surgery as possible. LoveRose centres around beautiful soft bras made using luxury sustainable fabrics. In the first collection we are using recycled lace, silks and a breathable tencel jersey, which has anti bacterial qualities.The first collection will be a mixture of bras, briefs, suspenders and robes which can be ‘mixed and matched’, whether straight from surgery, returning to work or going out with friends and returning to life. There are two pocketed bras for women who have prosthesis, and three others for women have had reconstruction or lumpectomies. They are all soft bras with hidden support. We also have matching briefs, again there are several options to suit your preference, alongside a suspender belt and silk robes all in matching colours. I love wearing all the bras and it’s hard to choose my favourite between them as they all have different design features, including a great night time bra and pant in breathable tencel jersey called “Honey I’m Home” that is like a hug (you’ll be dreaming of putting it on after a long day!). But my favourite has got to be the front fastening bra we call “Lights Down Low” it’s beautiful, sexy and super comfy.

The LoveRose team is Sarah Bell Jones and I and we work with a wider team spread over the UK and Portugal. Sarah is from London but a graduate from Edinburgh and I’m lucky to have found her as we make a great team. We are often getting very interesting glances in coffee shops across the city when we’re checking out fabric samples and drawings, and we’ve yet to have a meeting when one of us isn’t air-drawing boobs! All part of a day’s work! Our models are ordinary women who have had different breast surgeries that are part of our community. If you want to join us as a model we are planning all sorts of shenanigans over the next few months, sign up to our website www.loveroselingerie.com and get in touch!

We are working hard to launch our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in October where you can get an early bird discount for you and friends on pre order. A percentage of sales will also go back to our chosen charities Maggie’s and Coppafeel. Spread the word let’s get LoveRose Lingerie crowdfund to go viral. Us ladies have to stick together and show the lingerie market that we deserve to have a choice too. Stand with us to make change. We matter. 

LoveRose, Love yourself, xoxo

Caroline’s Story Part 1

Hello!

I’m Caroline, founder of LoveRose Lingerie. While many of you may already know my story, I wanted to take some time to talk about the journey I’ve been on. I hope that this will encourage others to share their stories and join the community we’re creating here at LoveRose.

I’m Irish but have lived in Scotland for almost 30 years. I studied fashion design and worked in retail before returning to uni to study sculpture. In 2006 I set up and was lucky enough to be the director of a contemporary gallery for emerging artists in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, life threw some curveballs and stress caused me to become very ill. I got Bell’s Palsy, then the virus went into my heart, causing heart failure. The same week that I got out of hospital I came home to a letter saying that they had found something on my recent mammogram requesting I go back for further tests. It was surreal, heart failure, cancer, what next? It was hard to process, considering I was fit and not a sickly person, bar being knocked down as a kid, but that’s another story!

I’m married and have two wonderful children and instantly as a mother you go into superhuman strong mode. I had lots of operations that year (5 in total) scooping out but preserving as much natural breast as they could, 2012 finished with 20 rounds of radiotherapy. At New Year I held a ceremony with my family and burnt the calendar on Anno Horribilis! I had lost my sister Rose to breast cancer a few years earlier and another sister Mary was in recovery- three sisters in one family and we don’t even carry the BRCA gene!!

I lived the next year with a renewed vigour for life. I didn’t work, (I had never not worked), I was grateful for everything and I would say I took nothing for granted anymore. My priorities were different; it was experiences over things, family and friends over everything and we got a dog. (Best decision ever!)

Two years on it was back. A lot back, so I had no option but to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction, waiting until we got Christmas out of the way for the kids. 2015 I lost my breasts, RIP.

The thing is, I loved my own breasts and I was really sad to lose them. I stayed strong for my children and pretended I was okay but inside I found it really hard. People, family, friends would all say, “that’s great Caroline you have it all out of your body now you can just get on”, “you look great Caroline you must be so glad to come out the other side”. Well, yes and yes to all of that but I could no longer feel my breasts, they could be on fire and I’d not feel them. I had lost some of who I was, I looked like the old Caroline, but I sure wasn’t feeling like her. Yet.

There is no doubt cancer affects every part of your life. It affects your relationships, and your body image. It can break your spirit. It might take your hair, your eyebrows and lashes too, it might take the part of you that you always felt made you a woman. The emotional and psychological recovery from cancer, for me, was the hardest part.

In everyday life though I still faced the problem of dressing, what underwear could I wear that was comfortable but didn’t look like my grans. I would describethe choice of post-surgery lingerie in the shops as ‘beige’ and online its mostly medical brands which I found to be too formed or a bit dated. I wanted colour, I wanted softness, I wanted matching underwear I would have chosen that doesn’t scream cancer survivor! (I don’t like that phrase) I found it impossible to find bras that were comfortable as well as feminine or sexy.

One day in May, to be precise May 27th, I went for dinner with my daughter and I wore something lovely but underneath I remember being so conscious of the big ugly strap of the bra I was wearing being visible. I knew what I had on under my top.I felt like crap. That night I made a diary entry, it said ‘I am going to design post-surgery bras. People like me deserve nice underwear too, it would make me feel more ‘normal’, whatever that is!’.

I refused to accept that what was available had to be my only choice! And so, LoveRose was born. I want to help other women who have been through cancer feel like they haven’t been forgotten, and that we too can have sexy, feminine lingerie.

LoveRose, Love yourself!

Xx

Check back next week for part 2 of Caroline’s story. Thank you so much for reading and we hope you can stick around for the conversation that’s to come. The LoveRose journey is only just beginning and we would love you to join the community at www.loveroselingerie.com , Facebook and Instagram.