Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Esther's Testimonial and An Appearance on the TV Show "The Doctors"!

One of the greatest rewards of having our company, Annie & Isabel, is the opportunity to come into contact with , learn from and often be inspired by the amazing women that wear our designer hospital gowns.  The women that share their stories with us always remain in our hearts and often in our prayers as they battle a disease or deal with unusual diagnoses or circumstances.  The testimonial we are sharing today is no different.   This testimonial comes from, Esther, who is a young mother of two beautiful children. We were contacted by Esther because she was interested in wearing one of our designer hospital gowns to recover from a rare surgery to correct a condition called Pectus Excavatum.  The surgery Esther endured to correct this condition was very invasive and required a lengthy recovery.  We were so happy that Esther was able to enjoy wearing one of our hospital gowns to provide some comfort, dignity and a little style during her hospital stay!!

We have been anxious to share Esther's testimonial with you because her story may be featured on the television show, "The Doctors"!
A part of her surgery was filmed for the show in order to share her story in hopes that it can help anyone else dealing with this condition. While our hospital gown was not filmed during the pre-operation and surgery it still feels pretty cool to know that we played a small part in Esther's successful surgery and recovery.

Esther is a 33 year old woman who is married and the mother of two beautiful children. She was born with Pectus Excavatum which is a congenital condition in which a person's sternum and several ribs grow abnormally, causing a large indent in a person's chest. People can live symptom free of this condition but in more severe cases it can cause problems. Esther had never had problems until she had her second child. It was at that time that she began experiencing shortness of breath, a racing heart and an inability to physically exert herself to a normal activity level.  She also had severe pain in the middle of her chest that she described as the feeling of "a knife being plunged in one end and out the other." She realized that she needed to undergo a pretty radical surgery in which a metal bar is placed in her chest to hold up the chest wall and allow her muscles and tendons to grow and strenghthen and learn their "new" position, at which time the metal bar will be removed.

Esther has undergone a very painful and long recovery but we are happy to report that she is beginning to get back to her normal daily activities with a much higher quality of life. This surgery has been a life savor for both Esther and her family!

Esther recovered in style with her "Susan" Annie & Isabel designer hospital gown. While you can tell she had just undergone a major surgery, she looked pretty good in her hospital gown!

Here is what she had to say about wearing her Annie & Isabel hospital gown:

"I absolutely LOVED the "Susan" hospital gown. It made me feel like a human being at a time when my entire world had turned upside down. I felt like a woman wearing the gown and not a specimen or science experiment. It was very pretty and beyond pretty. It was fun and had personality. I also got many compliments about the gown, and that felt really good and made me feel a whole lot more comfortable given that I had just had a metal bar literally shoved into my chest, and wasn't feeling so hot in general. I also liked the thickness and quality of the material and how when it covered my body, it was not revealing in the slightest. I appreciated the modesty it afforded me, both laying in the bed, and walking around the hospital wing. All in all, I was so happy to have such a pretty gown to recover in."

Thank you for such a nice testimonial Esther.  We know you will be enjoying a much better quality of life and can now fully enjoy playing with those beautiful children of yours!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"I Cheated Cancer"

Today's "Wednesday Warrior" is Patricia Brett. Patricia's immediate and extended family have been ravaged by breast cancer. She has lost loved ones and has seen several family members suffer through surgeries and treatments to beat breast cancer. Patricia herself, feeling like it was only a matter of time before she would have breast cancer, underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy to give herself a chance to live a long life and be able to enjoy seeing her son grow up. She tells her story so well below.   What we really love about Patricia is that she used this awful experience to help other breast cancer survivors by creating a product to help women feel better about themselves after losing their breasts.  Please read Patricia's story below to find out more about her family history with breast cancer and the amazing product she developed to help breast cancer survivors!!

"I cheated cancer.

These three little words would be enough to satisfy most people for a lifetime. For me, it simultaneously signaled the end of one journey and the start of a new one. It also taught me there is a real truth to the old saying "everything comes full circle."

I grew up in Ravenna, OH, the youngest girl in a family of 11 children. My father, the oldest son in a family of ten, had the added responsibility of looking after his siblings. This included his youngest sister Veronica, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. I went with him to visit her in the hospital and remember him bringing her wigs. I knew he was thinking, "If only she could look better she would feel better, and then she'd get better." Sadly that wasn't to be the case. Including Veronica, who passed away at age 44, my dad lost three of his six sisters to breast cancer, all at young ages. I always knew, even as a child, that breast cancer was somehow "in the family". I wouldn't realize just how much until many years later.

In February 1998, my sister Regina was diagnosed with breast cancer - at age 41. She had to undergo the full treatment - mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. The first in my generation, she was soon followed by three first cousins, all about my age or younger, including two of Veronica's daughters.  Later, more cousins were diagnosed, two with breast cancer and one with ovarian cancer.

It turns out that my family carries a genetic mutation that predisposes us to breast and ovarian cancer.  The cold hard facts - while there is a 50% chance of having the BRCA1 gene, if you do have it, there is up to an 85% chance of getting breast cancer in your lifetime. And with my family history, it wasn't "if", it was "when".

In early 2002, I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. Of the six girls in our family, only my sister Regina and I carry the gene. I always knew I was like my father. The person from whom I inherited the genes for blue eyes, long skinny legs and hard work ethic, passed along to me a genetic mutation for breast cancer. Luckily, he never knew this himself, having passed away before our discovery.

After a whole summer spent worrying about whether or not I had breast cancer, followed by surgical biopsies (all negative!) I decided to eliminate my risk. So, in January 2003, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I was 39.  My son had just turned two and I knew I needed to be around to see him grow up. Four years later,  in May 2007, after a long and difficult decision-making process, I had my ovaries removed. While these measures may seem drastic to some, it was the only way I could insure that, at the very least, breast or ovarian cancer would not prevent me from some day attending my son's wedding or seeing him graduate from college.

Strangely enough it was a wedding, or more specifically, Regina's visit to New York in search of a dress for her daughter's wedding, that started my entrepreneurial wheels turning. She wanted something beautiful, sexy and elegant, which could also accommodate her thick-strapped bra and breast forms (she calls them "Thelma and Louise"). We scoured all of Manhattan and found nothing. She ended up wearing the same simple, black, tank-style column dress she had worn to countless other events. It just struck me, after everything breast cancer survivors have to contend with, finding something to wear shouldn't be yet another challenge.

Then, in October 2007, not long after my ovarian surgery, I joined Regina and her then 29 year-old daughter Gabe for a girls' weekend. Gabe, who inherited the BRCA1 gene from her mother, had scheduled her own risk-reducing bilateral mastectomy for December of that year. Like her mother, she opted not to have reconstruction. For perspective, this was my 5'2", blond-haired, blue-eyed, tiny, beautiful, recently married niece who wore cute little camisoles with colorful bra straps peeking out!  While she had made peace with the idea of surgery, she spent the weekend venting, "I'll have to give away my entire wardrobe!" or "The mastectomy swimsuits are all floral with horrible little skirt bottoms." You get the picture.

That Monday I came back to New York, pulled out my sketchbook and began to draw.  At the same time, I drafted a rough business plan with the (admittedly) unglamorous working title 'Fashions for Women - Post Mastectomy'.  I joked, "If I can design a building, surely I can design a bra or swimsuit?!" After all, I did have a Master of Architecture degree from Yale! Armed with inspiration from my sister and my niece, I set out to create something to help both breast cancer survivors and pre-vivors (a person like me, who has not been diagnosed with cancer, but has survived the higher risk of cancer) look and feel like a million bucks again.

I made the first swimsuite myself, fashioned from a store-bought pattern that I modified to add coverage where needed, cut it a bit sexier where I could and added pockets that allowed for breast forms.  It was totally crude - the suit barely held together, the leg seams and armholes weren't even finished.

The next time my sister came to New York for a visit, I asked her to try it on.  Almost immediately her eyes lit up, she burst into tears and started twirling like a little girl.

"This is the sexiest thing I've worn in ten years!" she declared.  "This could be the bodice of a dress, a shirt, a body suit...!"

Since then, I've worked with more patternmakers, sample sewers and factories than I care to admit.  It's a technical, well-engineered solution that requires a high level of expertise. Maybe that's why some of those other suits looks the way they do.  But I kept at it, knowing that, if I was successful, one day women all over the world would have the opportunity to twirl around like my sister and feel fabulous all over again.

The brand, which debuted in Spring 2010, is named veronica brett, in honor of my aunt Veronica who we lost to breast cancer 35 years ago. She was beautiful, intelligent, elegant, and an inspiration.  I want every woman who wears a product bearing her name to feel the same way, and to truly believe our philosophy that "LIFE NEVER LOOKED SEXIER".

These pictures are of one swimsuit that Patricia designed and is modeled by breast cancer survivor and activist, Stephanie LaRue.  Please visit Patricia's beautiful website, Veronia Brett,  to see many more.  You can also find her company on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The "Annie" Hospital Gown Brings Comfort During a Tough Pregnancy and Hospital Stays

Today's testimonial comes from Michelle who is a friend and co-worker of mine.  Michelle is an Emergency Room nurse and knows, first hand, how terrible standard hospital gowns are. She was excited to purchase her own Annie & Isabel gown well before her sweet little daughter was born. It was a good thing Michelle ordered her gown early, because, unfortunately she had some unexpected hospital stays during her pregnancy.

Michelle picked the "Annie" designer hospital gown to wear during her hospital stays and gave us a very nice testimonial below:

"I wanted to let you know how much I loved having my gown for my hospital stays during my pregnancy.  I was admitted a couple times during my pregnancy due to preeclampsia and it was hard to be away from my young son and husband; especially not having my baby yet to keep me occupied.  It was really nice to have a hospital gown that I was comfortable in, and that smelled like home during those stays.  I got so many compliments from nurses, doctors, and other patients during my stays and while being stuck on bedrest in the hospital was hard, it made me feel a bit better being able to wear something of my own style and that I knew was clean.  The gown was wonderful during the frequent fetal monitoring.  It was also great to wear after the birth of my daughter.  I loved having the snaps on the sleeves to help with pumping and since my little one was in the NICU I had to pump often.  The pocket was wonderful to put my camera and cellphone in during my visits to see my daughter.  I will definitely recommend these gowns to my friends - it's so nice to wear something of your own during hospital stays, and the gowns are perfectly designed for monitoring, breastfeeding, pumping, and walking to and from your room while maintaining modesty."

Congratulations and thank you Michelle!!! Your new family of four is beautiful. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

KCRA Channel 3's Leticia Ordaz Welcomes a New Baby Boy!!

It is such a pleasure to share this beautiful testimonial from Leticia Ordaz today.  For those of you that are local to Sacramento, you probably recognize Leticia Ordaz. She is a news reporter for KCRA Channel 3. She is a beautiful person inside and out and recently welcomed her first child into the world.  We feel so honored that she wore one our "Isabel" Annie & Isabel designer hospital gown during her hospital stay. We also, once again, have the most amazing pictures to share with you from Brenda Bisharat Photography, who captured the first precious moments of the Ordaz's new family together. These are some photos that we know Leticia and her family will always cherish.....such a beatiful family!

Leticia wore the "Isabel" designer gown during her hospital stay.  Here is what she had to say about her experience wearing her Annie & Isabel hospital gown:

"I wanted to let you know I absolutely loved my designer Annie and Isabel hospital gown. Your blue "Isabel" gown made me feel so glamorous after giving birth.  The hospital staff at Sutter, along with my friends and family commented that I didn't look like I had just been through hours of labor.  The gown made me feel beautiful.  Thanks for creating a wonderful garment for new mothers.  Brenda Bisharat's beautiful photos really helped capture my joy of becoming a mother for the first time.  I can't thank you enough for making my special day even more memorable.  I loved the gown so much, I have the picture of me and my sweet son Maxton on my facebook profile."

Leticia Ordaz ~ Sacramento, CA

Our "Isabel" designer hospital gown will be making it's second appearance on national television tomorrow night on abc's Private Practice! Watch the preview here to see Addison, played by Kate Walsh, in the gown. This episode airs Thursday at 10pm.