How a Breast Cancer Survivor Found Inspiration in Her Scars

After her mastectomy, Dana Donofree couldn’t find a bra that fit. So she did something about it.

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Going through a life-changing event like having breast cancer can bring on many unexpected challenges. On top of trying to stay positive about your breast cancer diagnosis and undergoing breast cancer treatment, you may also look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. You may feel like a new person—and not in a way that you’d expect.

Dana Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After her bilateral mastectomy—a surgical operation to remove both breasts—she struggled to accept her new body and feel good in her own skin. “I was still seeing the body that was torn apart and put back together. I wasn’t seeing me,” says Donofree.

It wasn’t until she went shopping for something sexy for her honeymoon that she hit a new low. Donofree and her best friend searched far and wide for lingerie that she could feel good in and found nothing. “We literally tore through an entire lingerie department,” she says.

She went to her doctor to seek guidance about the problem she was having, and they referred her to a specialty foundation shop that carried mastectomy bras.

“I just came in and [blurted] out to her, ‘I had breast cancer. I was told to come here for a bra. I just want something sexy,’” said Donofree.

She started shopping and began to try on the merchandise, until she was hit with a wave of sadness and frustration. None of these bras looked good. None of these bras fit her. None of these bras made her feel sexy.

“I just sat in that fitting room and I cried silently,” says Donofree. “That’s when I knew, that there was nothing for me. And that I had cancer, and women with cancer are different than regular women. And that I am no longer normal. That now, I am a woman who has had breast cancer that can never feel sexy again in her life. And that’s what that moment felt like for me.”

That was a sad moment for Donofree, but it had a silver lining. It inspired her in a way she never expected. She knew she had to take this issue into her own hands.

She started by cutting up and refashioning bras she had that weren’t breast cancer-friendly. After slicing and dicing bras to make them fit her body, she came to another realization: She couldn’t be the only woman who felt this way.

“I have to save that next 27-year-old that’s diagnosed with breast cancer from this experience. I don’t want anyone to every feel this again,” says Donofree.

That’s when her company, AnaOno, was born. AnaOno’s mission is to provide garments for women who have had breast reconstruction, breast surgery, and mastectomy.

“It’s technically a bra,” Donofree says with a smile, “but at the end of the day it’s a piece of yourself, and your life. [It’s] who you are as a woman that you get to celebrate in a way that you feel good about.”

Get a glimpse of the AnaOno line, and learn how to find the right bra and dress yourself after breast cancer here: