Member Spotlight: Celebrating Strong Women During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
on December 03, 2020
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we celebrated by hosting a podcast and interviewing Lori Miller, manager at Naturally Yours, an Essentially Women member in Illinois, as well as Jamie Lee, who is not only a breast cancer survivor but a business owner, a model who has walked the runway, and a force to be reckoned with. We wanted to highlight the strong, amazing women who impact this industry every day and who have not only conquered breast cancer, but have dominated it. You can listen to the full podcast episode here.
Lori is the general manager of Naturally Yours, a mastectomy fitter, and hair replacement specialist. Naturally Yours offers breast care products, including mastectomy bras, custom and off-the-shelf breast prostheses, wigs and headwear, skin and healthcare products, and compression.
When asked how she got into the women’s health industry, Lori responded, “God has a sense of humor and chooses things for us.”
Lori went to school to be a chiropractic technologist, and she received the proper medical training for insurance and billing. As her mom began transitioning her salon into a boutique, she asked Lori to come work for her instead. From there, Lori went to cosmetology school and then became a certified and accredited fitter. Now, Lori is the manager of all three stores, alongside of her mother and sister. Lori also has two daughters who work with her as well.
That’s how Lori came to know Jamie. One day, a patient brought some of Jamie’s products into Lori’s boutique and suggested that she reach out to Jamie about selling some them, including the all-natural deodorant and body butter that Jamie makes. Lori called Jamie to see if she wanted to bring some of her products to the boutique, and that’s how their friendship started.
“Not only have the products taken on a life of their own and spread like wildfire in between our boutiques, but they're amazing and they’re made from the heart,” said Lori. “That's just how it started. From there, we're kind of attached to the hip at times just because of what it is that she's been through, what it is that I do, how we connect with things, and it's just been amazing.”
The products that Jamie sells were developed when she was going through breast cancer herself and conducted research on what kind of products to use to reduce the odds of recurrence.
Jamie is a major advocate for self-examination, and this is largely due to the fact that it was how she discovered she had cancer in the first place. Jamie discovered a lump in her breast one day when she felt a sharp, electric pain while reaching for her soap in the shower. She later went to her OB-GYN for a manual exam, but she was told that it was most likely a cyst that she was feeling. However, after a biopsy, she was told that it was, in fact, cancer.
“I knew that I wanted to fight the breast cancer as aggressively as I could,” said Jamie. “So, my choices that I made at the time were probably, to some people, radical by doing the bilateral mastectomy.”
However, Jamie had never seen what a bilateral mastectomy looked like until she saw her own chest afterwards. At the time, no one had posted pictures, so when she saw her chest, she felt strong but didn’t know anyone else her age who had gone through the same thing and didn’t know how other people felt about themselves after. That’s when she was contacted by a local mammography studio, who was getting pictures of women who have had breast issues. Jamie agreed to have pictures taken, but only if her face was shown.
“If I'm going to do this, I want to show my face because I want women to know that this isn't a disease of just a 65-year-old. It’s a disease that we could all be a victim of,” explained Jamie. “I wanted people to see that I was young, and I still had breast cancer.”
After that photo shoot, Jamie shared the pictures on social media. Although it was a bit scary for Jamie, she felt that it was the right thing to do.
“I had such an amazing outpouring of women that contacted me and said that they look like that too,” said Jamie. “It was nice to know that there was a group of us and that we weren’t alone. We were all young and flat, and that was okay. So, we kind of built each other up like that.”
When it comes to conversations with someone who’s recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, Jamie always tries to emphasize that it’s important for women to do what they’re most comfortable with.
“I had a bilateral mastectomy and did not choose to do the reconstruction again, but I really try to emphasize that just because it was the choice that I made personally, it isn't maybe the right choice for everyone,” said Jamie. “Everybody at the end of the day has to feel comfortable with the decision that they made, and my choice may not be the right choice for everyone.”
On the business side, Lori strives to prepare women with options. Depending on the location, many times women will come into the boutique before seeing a surgeon and determining next steps. When this happens, Lori is able to educate them on all their choices. They’ll be able to touch and feel everything and get an idea of what route they want to take. They can have visuals and make wiser, more educated decisions.
Lori also strongly encourages her customers to do as much research as they can.
“Anything that you choose, whether it's a partial, radiation, chemotherapy, custom [breast prosthetics], implants, etc., all of these things are big decisions,” explains Lori. “So, we really push educating, research, and then give them as much knowledge as we possibly can.”
When asked about one thing they would want women to take away regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both Lori and Jamie strongly emphasized the importance of doing self-exams. Lori also added that self-care is extremely important.
Lori and Jamie also provided their final thoughts, which included the importance of embracing oneself, as well as doing the best you can to not judge someone else.
“Just try to embrace what you have. Trying to learn how to embrace [your body] and love it for what it is, flaws and all, is huge,” said Jamie.
“I would like to encourage people to try not to judge anybody that's going through any journey. Sometimes they're walking a very lonely walk or don't have the support that others may have,” said Lori. “And if you can support someone [or] reach out to someone, absolutely do it because you'll be surprised at the changes you can make in somebody's life, just by lending an ear or support in any way, shape, or form.”
To listen to the full podcast, click here.
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