I'm Caroline, the founder of LoveRose lingerie. While many of you may already know my story, I wanted to take some time to talk about the journey I've been on. I hope that this will encourage others to share their stories and join the community we're creating here at LoveRose.
I have lived in Scotland for almost 30 years now but I am an Irish girl through and through. I initially studied fashion design and worked in retail, before deciding to return to university to study sculpture; the creative side of me couldn’t sit still you could say! In 2006 I set up and became the director of a contemporary gallery for emerging artists in Edinburgh which was an amazing job I got to experience for 7 years. Unfortunately, life threw some curveballs my way and the stress caused me to become very ill. First, I got Bell’s Palsy in one side of my face, and then the virus decided to kindly move into my heart causing it to go into failure. It was the very same week I had got out of hospital that I came home to a letter saying that they had found something on my recent mammogram. And that was that. It was surreal; heart failure, cancer, what next? It was hard to process considering I was fit and healthy, doing all the things you’re supposed to do to look after your body. And suddenly, my whole world had changed in what felt like one blurry, sore moment.
I had lost my sister Rose to breast cancer in 2004 (hence the name ‘LoveRose’) and another of my lovely sisters Mary, was in recovery; and now me. I lost another sister in April 22 from cancer, not primary breast cancer, but cancer. Four sisters in one family… that is just hapless; and we don’t even carry the BRCA gene!
I had lots of operations that year (5 in total) scooping out but preserving as much natural breast as they could. 2012 finished with 20 rounds of radiotherapy. In celebration of the New Year sans cancer, I held a ceremony with my family and we burnt the calendar for Annus Horribilis!
I lived the next year with a renewed vigour for life. I didn’t work, I had never not worked, and I was grateful for absolutely everything. My priorities were different; it was experiences over things, family and friends over everything, and we got a dog (Best decision ever!).
Two years later it was back… a lot back. And so, I had no option but to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. It was in 2015 I lost my breasts .RIP.
I felt like I had to stay strong for everyone around me and pretend I was okay but inside I found it really hard. The thing is, I loved my own breasts and I was devastated to lose them. People, family, friends would all say, “that’s great Caroline you have it all out of your body now, you can just get on”, “you look great Caroline, you must be so glad to come out the other side”. Well, yes and yes to all of that, but I no longer could feel my breasts; they could be on fire and I’d not feel them. I didn’t actually feel like I had come out the other side. I had lost some of who I was, I looked like the old Caroline, but I sure wasn’t feeling like her… yet.
There is no doubt Cancer affects every part of your life. It affects your relationships; your body image… it can break your spirit. It might take your hair; your eyebrows and lashes; it might take the part of you that you’d always felt made you a woman. The emotional and psychological recovery from cancer I felt was and is, the hardest part.
In everyday life I faced the problem of getting dressed; what underwear should I wear that was comfortable enough on my new body but didn’t look like it belonged to my Gran? I would describe the choice of post-surgery lingerie in shops as ‘beige’, and online it’s mostly medical brands which I found to be too formed and a bit dated. I wanted colour; I wanted softness; I wanted matching underwear that doesn’t scream “cancer survivor”! I found it impossible to find bras that are comfortable as well as feminine or sexy. One day I went for dinner with my daughter and I wore something lovely but underneath, it just wasn't good; I just remember being so conscious of the big ugly strap of the bra I was wearing being visible. I felt really low.
That night I made a diary entry, it said: “I am going to design post surgery bras, people like me deserve nice underwear too, it would make me feel more ‘normal’ whatever that is…”. I refused to accept that what was available on the market was my only choice! And so, LoveRose was born.
The dream is to help other women who have been through cancer feel like they haven't been forgotten. We too can have matching, sexy lingerie to help us feel like the feminine, empowered woman that we are!
And this is where my strapline for the brand came from, LoveRose, Love Yourself. Literally.
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