We connected with an amazing mom entrepreneur, Diane Lebleu, through a mom blogger. Diane was was in the beginning stages of starting her own business called Pink Pockets. Diane connected with us via email. Her email started by saying, "You are an inspiration." As I continued reading this email, I thought to myself, THIS woman is the TRUE inspiration!!! Diane Lebleu is a breast cancer survivor. Through her experience of going through a double mastectomy with chemotherapy and radiation to rid herself of breast cancer, she came up with an idea for a product to help other women and men who are dealing with this diagnosis. She designed a very simple pocket that can be placed inside your own clothing to hold surgical drains in place. Surgical drains are often placed after having mastectomies and are used to remove fluids that accumulate around the surgical area. Here is a picture of what they look like:
We wanted to share Diane's story and product with you. As most of you know, one of our hospital gowns, The Elizabeth, is in honor of our grandmother Elizabeth who fought breast cancer so this cause is dear to our hearts and these pockets would work great in our hospital gowns too!!!
Here is a little interview that we did with Diane. We know you will find some inspiration in this story and hopefully you can pass on her great product to others that might need it!!
A&I: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer and how was it discovered?
Diane: My twin sister, Denise, was diagnosed when we were 33. It was a complete surprise. She went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Because of her experience, I was on the lookout - mammograms every 2 years until 37 and then annually.
I actually had a mammogram in the spring before I discovered a lump in November 2008. I had just been on a visit to Budapest Hungary to visit my BFF, Holly, and do some research for a book I was intending to write. The lump was there. As soon as I returned home, I went to visit my OB/GYN. "Where is it?" my doctor asked me. "Right there!" I had to show her, it was so small. Almost like a small blood clot. This was over Thanksgiving - holiday schedule means difficulty getting doctors to have much urgency. I had another diagnostic mammogram, biopsy and my doctor of radiology proclaimed to me during the procedure "This doesn't look like cancer" and then of course, the call. December 3, 2008: "Diane, this is cancer". Of course, since I am somewhat of a competitive person, my first reaction was "I KNEW IT!" Then I had to get on the phone and call my husband who was on a business trip in Hartford, CT and he flew home immediately.
A&I: What helped you the most while going through treatments for breast cancer?
Diane: Having a sense of humor and sticking to routine. At the time of my diagnosis, I was only 39 and my kids were 10, 7, 3 and 2. This made it very hard to sit around and feel sorry for myself. My husband and I don't have any family that is not at least a 2 hour plane ride away so we had to rely on the kindness of neighbors and friends during this period. We were overwhelmed with kindness. The meal calendar that friends set up for me went on for over 2 months with only 1 or 2 duplicate families providing meals. Our son's football team contributed to pay for a housekeeper for 3 months. My BFF Holly, despite the fact that she was living in Budapest, Hungary at the time, arranged a weekly "Chemo Fairy" to anonymously drop off goodies on my doorstep every week during the time I was undergoing chemotherapy. At the end of my treatment, we all went out and the "Fairies" were revealed. It was thoughtful and got me through the dark days following an infusion. Most importantly, though, is my faith in God that He would use this experience for good. I'm seeing some of that come to fruition in my work with Pink Pockets and some of the blogging I have done on my breast cancer experience
A&I: How has your life changed since your breast cancer diagnosis?
Diane: One of the positives is that I wake each day thankful for every new sunrise I am privileged to see. I kiss my kids more and don't worry so much about not getting to everything on my "to do" list. Maybe that's just an excuse to procrastinate but I am able to keep things in perspective much more....unless we are talking about politics. I am also a cancerpreneur now - trying to build my business in a way that will positively impact those that are afflicted with this disease both in terms of a quality product that meets an unmet need and with some proceeds of sales going to the Komen For the Cure Foundation and the Central Texas Breast Cancer Resource Center. I'm an aspiring writer and guest blogger on a few sites and I was honored by NY Times parenting blogger, Lisa Belkins, who posted my story "Merry Christmas I have Breast Cancer" on Christmas Eve following my diagnosis. I was subsequently honored to have 3 other guest posts detailing my walk with cancer and treatment and was even able to meet Lisa and get a tour of the NY Times building in NYC this past August at the BlogHer conference.
A&I: What is the best advise you can give to those newly diagnosed with breast cancer?
Diane: Don't panic. The medical ingenuity in treatment grows every year and the survival rates have never been greater nor afforded those diagnosed with as much hope as there is today for recovery and living a long and wonderful life. I let myself have five minutes of self-pity before making up my mind that I was not just going to endure my bout with breast cancer, I was going to prevail. At the time of diagnosis, my children were 10, 7, 3, and 2. My plan was to stick to routine as much as possible - not just for their benefit, but for mine as well. By allowing others to drive for a while - an overwhelming response from my husband, family, friends, neighbors - we were able to fight this battle and were given a chance to grow closer as a family and laugh a little at the next curve balls we faced at the plate. I like to focus on the positives of this experience such as my creation of Pink Pockets, temporary surgical drain pockets to use after breast surgery, which will give great comfort to those in a similar situation. We can't know the "whys" of things in this life, but we can be certain that we can use them to serve others if we choose.
A&I: Tell us about Pink Pockets
Diane: A few weeks before my bilateral mastectomy, a woman, Jennifer, in my local breast cancer support group "The Pink Ribbon Cowgirls" gave me a simple, hand-made cotton camisole with ladybugs on it. Volunteers make them and donate them to the Breast Cancer Resource Center. Jennifer had worn it a few weeks earlier after her bilateral mastectomy and she knew that the garment - with pockets sewn inside - was a God send. Those drains are so awful and uncomfortable. Doctors really do not give enough warning about these uncomfortable and unwieldy appendages. When my sister was planning for her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, I brought it to her and began looking for more affordable garments. Retail "special shirts" or "gowns" with pockets start around $40. That is a lot of money - and Jennifer and I surmised that we could produce one for a better price point to make it a more affordable choice. Everyone should have something to help them manage these drains. As we were doing some due diligence, I began thinking about what I wore after my surgery. I wanted to feel as normal as I could, wearing normal clothes. I wore regular button down shirts or pjs that I bought specifically for after the surgery (your arms are useless for a while - nothing over your head) and I wondered if you could just put a pocket inside your own clothes. And you know what? You can. One size fits all.
A&I: How long does each Pink Pocket last?
Diane: You can remove and re-stick the pocket - it doesn't adhere quite as well, but still can be re-used on another garment. You can also wash your garment once or twice and the pocket will stay on. Just don't put the dryer on high heat. The heat will cause the pocket to pucker. You can also just hang your garment to dry. My Pink Pockets come in a package of 3 pairs for $13.99 plus shipping or 5 pairs for $19.99 plus shipping and a portion of each sale goes to both the Austin Affiliate of the Komen for the Cure Foundation (http://www.komenaustin.com/) and the Breast Cancer Resource Center. (http://www.bcrc.org/) The pockets last as long as you have your drains. Just peel them off your garment and discard when done. We use 100% cotton fabric and the prints vary based on what we can find. They are cute but no one sees them as they fit inside your clothes.
Thank you Diane for sharing your story!!! If you want to learn more about Pink Pockets, please visit her website at Pink Pockets