I remember every detail of July 25, 2014. Not only was it my mom’s birthday, it was also the day she was diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer. That day changed my perspective on everything from how I interacted with strangers to how I navigated my career and relationships. I knew that breast cancer wasn’t a death sentence and that millions of women have survived it, but that didn’t change the shock I felt.
I was 25 years old at the time, living in Wisconsin working in corporate retail. Traveling between Kentucky and Wisconsin on weekends to be there for my mom’s various surgeries, it was hard to return to my desk job each week. I felt so guilty being unable to physically be with my family during this time, while I was continuing to live my normal life. Once my apartment lease ended I quit my job and moved home to be with my family.
Watching my mom undergo 3 surgeries before breast reconstruction, I could not believe the recovery garments that were available. I searched high and low for a top (any top!) that could manage her surgical drains for the weeks following her surgeries. They all lacked basic functional components that seemed so straightforward, not to mention the fact they were all medical-grade materials, and either frumpy or super fitted. With all the friends and family that were coming over to see my mom, I could tell she was growing frustrated with how she looked.
At a time in a woman’s life when she is going through something so defeminizing, how could there not be clothing that makes a woman feel like a woman?
While eating dinner with my parents one night, I shared that I had purchased a ticket for the Powerball. I started listing out all the things I would do if I won the billion-dollar jackpot, part of which included starting a start a clothing company that would make everything my mom should have had following her mastectomy surgeries. I will never forget the way my dad looked me straight in the eye and said, “You don’t have to win the lottery to do that.”
With my mom by my side, Audrey Liz was born. It was time to make “medical fashion” an actual thing. And that’s exactly what we did.
MAKE YOUR MESS YOUR MESSAGE
The mantra I continually repeat to myself is “Make your mess your message.” I don’t know where or when I heard that phrase, but it’s helped me continue to seek out the good in disappointing situations.
Starting this company with my mom has not only been overwhelmingly fulfilling—but also, unexpectedly therapeutic. Hearing women’s stories and how meaningful our products have been for their recovery process is incredibly rewarding, and is a constant reminder that there can be sunshine behind the clouds.
Whether you’re coping with a sick family member or are personally struggling with something, I hope you will find a way to make your mess your message as well. It can be as simple as educating those around you about the illness affecting you or reaching out to someone going through something similar. Turning something negative into a positive is truly healing and powerful.
Today, regardless of your circumstance, find a way to spread a little positivity to someone else.