'I survived breast cancer, now I'm helping other survivors feel beautiful again'

Kendra Palazzi (left) and breast cancer survivor Lori Futterer (right) co-founders of  Gorgeous You Inc.  (Photo: Supplied)

As part of an ongoing series, Yahoo Canada is profiling personal experiences in open letters. Our next entry profiles Lori Futterer, the owner/co-founder of Gorgeous You Inc. — an online boutique offering a wide range of bras, undies, swimwear, and headwear, delivering a combination of function and fashion with products for all women’s cancers. For more from our series, click here.  As told to Nisean Lorde.

When I was 37-years-old I remember very clearly one day stepping out of the shower to find my six-year-old sitting on the tiles of the bathroom floor waiting for me. I had just had a mastectomy and was in the process of chemotherapy. As you can imagine I was feeling very physically and emotionally drained, and although we had told Eve (my daughter) that I had had surgery, we hadn’t given her many of the details.

She looked at me and pointed out my obvious missing body parts: “Mommy” she said, “your booby is gone.” I remember very distinctly looking at her in that moment and saying “yes honey, but look at all of me there is left.” I would come back to that sentiment as I went through what, you can imagine, was a very difficult and trying time. As a young mother dealing with this diagnosis, I had to keep telling myself that I’m here, I’m still standing, and “look at all of me there is left.”

When I had completed my treatments, a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation another elective mastectomy, I remember my oncologist sitting me down and saying “Lori, now that you have done your treatments, I think it’s time for you to meet with a plastic surgeon.”

I remember feeling very overwhelmed by the year I had just gone through and was not particularly looking forward to more procedures, more appointments, more surgeries, so I pushed back. He suggested that I might want to reconsider, that I was very young, and hopefully had a long life ahead of me. He told me the most of the young women who have gone through what I went through elect to have reconstruction. I asked him why he thought that was and I remember very distinctly what his answer was: “It is because they want to feel whole again.”

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“I asked him why he thought that was and I remember very distinctly what his answer was: “It is because they want to feel whole again.” (Photo: Getty)

In the last 10 years since my diagnosis I have gone down the path for reconstruction twice: once at the 5-year mark and once at the 9-year mark. Both times, I really felt that this was something I should want for myself as a young woman with a long life ahead of me. I wanted my clothes to fit properly, and I wanted to feel sexy and beautiful.

I started to ask myself: “how can you feel attractive when you’ve lost what many in society equate to being a sexy woman?” I had met many women who were in a similar situation that were excited for their new breasts after their cancer treatment.  When I would ask them why it was so important to them their responses were consistent: ‘I want to feel like myself again: I want to feel whole.’

The second time I went down the path I was set to go ahead. I had taken a leave of absence from work and it was a few days before my first surgery — but something wasn’t sitting right with me, something was holding me back. I called my surgeon and cancelled. I had a husband who loved me and called my beautiful and sexy on a daily basis. I had friends and family that accepted me for exactly who I was.

I was healthy and active and enjoying my work and my three kids.  But most importantly, in the moment that I decided to make the call to cancel my surgery and walk away from this dream I had of my new figure, I realized that I really loved my body.  I saw the beauty in it and I did not want to change it. I had also learned to love my scars. In them I saw the strength of my conviction. I did not need to change my current body to feel whole again because I knew in my heart: “I am whole the way I am.”

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“I had also learned to love my scars. In them I saw the strength of my conviction.” Lori (right) with Kendra Palazzi  (left) (Photo: Supplied)

I know that many women go through this difficult choice and there is definitely no one right answer for everyone.  There will be challenges either way.  Whether breast cancer survivors have opted for reconstruction or not, one of the challenges is to find fashionable products that are comfortable and make us feel feminine: it is difficult finding sexy lingerie and stylish bathing suits to fit your post cancer-treatment body.

That is why I started GorgeousYou, with my dear friend Kendra Palazzi, who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age. Cancer is hard enough; shopping for underwear and bras shouldn’t have to be.

We created GorgeousYou to help women take back what is rightfully ours -– dignity, femininity, style and comfort. It is the first online shop in Canada that provides cancer survivors with fashionable and functional clothing: beautiful, sexy, comfortable pieces such as bras, undies, hats, wraps, swimwear and more.  Many of the lines we carry have been created by survivors — for survivors.  We also offer personal styling and fitting assistance via virtual fittings, phone or online chat, allowing women to shop from the comfort of their own homes.

“When we shop, it should be playful not clinical, empowering not degrading, inspiring not deflating,” (Photo supplied, GorgeousYou.) 
“When we shop, it should be playful not clinical, empowering not degrading.” (Photo supplied, GorgeousYou.) 

Cancer robs us of so much but it doesn’t take away who we are at our core –- our soul, our spirit. And it shouldn’t strip us of our dignity or our right for things that are stylish, feminine, sexy.

When we shop, it should be playful not clinical, empowering not degrading, inspiring not deflating. We should have choice and an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are still Gorgeous.

For more on Lori and her incredible journey, visit GorgeousYou.ca

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