Editor’s Note: This article hit home for me. During my recovery from surgery, a unilateral mastectomy as a result of invasive lobular breast cancer, I was introduced to Andrea Silverstein, a fellow breast cancer survivor, whose story was remarkably similar to mine.
After treatment, Andrea had an “Ah ha” moment (which she now calls a “Bra Ha” moment). She found peach®, and fell in love. I felt we could not pass up sharing Andrea’s story, and her love of peach®, a company on a mission to help women feel more beautiful through the design of more thoughtful intimate and basic apparel, and a more personal shopping experience. Peach® is also a company which is incredibly supportive of breast cancer awareness. Not only that, but the product is fabulous– comfortable and elegant. We know you will love it.
Meet Andrea Silverstein, a breast cancer survivor and a peach® leader. As Head of Sales and Field Development, she empowers women around the nation to build their own peach® businesses, and help other women feel beyoutiful. This is her story.
When did you find out you had breast cancer?
In April 2010, I remember lying in bed with my husband, talking about summer camp for the kids. As I was talking, I touched the right side of my right breast, and I felt a funny lump. My husband and I agreed it felt strange, and it just so happened I had a routine OB/GYN appointment scheduled a few days away. The rest happened very quickly. My doctor didn’t like how it felt. I had an ultrasound, and it didn’t look good. And within 24 hours, the results from the biopsy showed that I had breast cancer. Before that moment in bed when I found the lump, I had never taken seriously the advice from the medical community about the importance of self-breast exams. Boy, do I feel differently now. I may not have found the lump as early as I did.
As a young mom, how did you and your husband tell your children about your diagnosis?
We wanted to communicate openly about it in our home and without instilling any fear.
We basically sat them down at the kitchen table during breakfast one morning, and my husband said, “Mommy found a bump on her boobie.” The boys (they were 5, 7, and 9 at the time) giggled and turned bright red when they heard that. He continued, “Well, it’s actually a bump that shouldn’t be there. And it’s called breast cancer, and mommy is going to have to have a surgery and take some medicine and her hair is going to fall out.” With that, our middle son looked at me seriously and said, “Mom, can you please pass the orange juice?” We were so worried about frightening them, but kids can often surprise us with their resilience.
Before that moment in bed when I found the lump, I had never taken seriously the advice from the medical community about the importance of self-breast exams.
What was some of the most important advice you received during breast cancer?
One of the most important pieces of advice I received was “do what you can to stay active.” When you’re going through surgery, it’s really hard to do that. But as soon as the doctor said I could be active, it was really important for me and my recovery process to make an effort to move, to walk around the neighborhood, to get out into nature, and to sometimes even go for a run. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, staying active was very powerful for me, and in fact, healing. Working out is now a big part of my life post-breast cancer.
What was unexpected about your treatment process?
The doctors said I would lose my hair around the second chemo treatment, and I did. I ended up wearing a wig for over a year. It’s very drastic and emotional to lose your hair. I’m a hair girl. I’ve got curly hair, but when I went to the wig salon with my sister, I ended up with a straight wig (the curly ones made me look like bozo the clown!). The benefit to the wig was that I felt adorable—it was kind of wispy and cute. I imagined myself as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Another unexpected benefit was that I could go to the gym and workout, wash up and throw my wig on, and no one would know that I hadn’t jumped in the shower! This took a good 40 minutes out of my morning routine.
You don’t realize how broad this disease is. I ultimately met fifty women in my community that had gone through breast cancer, and so many of them were there to help with anything I needed.
What did you learn, personally, as you went through your treatment?
I learned the power and value of community. I have always had a lot of friends, but the support and attention that my community gave me during my treatment was beyond anything I had ever experienced or could have hoped for. When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone in my immediate network who had breast cancer. However, soon after sharing the news, I was connected to nearly 50 women from the region who had gone through it. You don’t realize how broad this disease is until you are in it. Many of these great women were there to help me and answer my questions, in addition to the incredible support I received from my family, close friends, my rabbi, and my entire healthcare team.
You made a big career change after breast cancer. What inspired that?
When I was diagnosed, I had been at American Express for 16.5 years. At that point, I didn’t know I would leave Amex. In fact, I could not have asked for a more fulfilling and energizing career. Honestly, everything I learned from my leaders there taught me how to get through breast cancer like any other work project. I envisioned the finish line—the goal I had to reach, and I went through it in a very planned and methodical way. But, a year later, when I was over that finish line, I had this new lease on life which made me think, “Okay, if I want to take a shot at something new and try to make a different kind of impact professionally, now’s the time!”
At the same time, I was in touch with Janet Kraus, peach® CEO. She told me all about her vision for this new brand called peach® and her mission to help women feel beautiful through the design of more thoughtful intimate and basic apparel and a more personal shopping experience. I thought “Wow, I want to do this with her. I want to help create this brand.” I could not have imagined a more authentic next career move, especially as a breast cancer survivor. After breast cancer treatment, your body feels and is different. Your self-esteem is hit, and you have to work on getting your self-confidence back. I understood the power of having a stylist come to my home and fit my new body in bras and other wardrobe basics that made me feel beautiful. I thought about peach redefining “perfect” to mean being your best self. As a breast cancer survivor, this is exactly what I needed and I knew that I had to share it with other women.
Will you tell us about your bra-ha moment?
Being at the drawing board with peach, I was so inspired to help create the “peach experience.” But it wasn’t until I became a peach client myself that I really understood the power of peach on a personal level. After breast cancer, I had to throw out all my old bras – I had new breasts. Bevin Mugford, our consummate bra fit expert, took me through the peach bra measurement and fitting experience and it was truly transformative for me. The moment I put on my perfect fitting peach bra – how I felt and looked both in and out of my clothing – it was an incredibly moving moment. It was my bra-ha moment! I’m continually filled with pride and joy when I think of the thousands of women, including many breast cancer survivors, who have experienced their bra-ha moments with a peach stylist, similar to the day I experienced mine with Bevin. It exemplifies this notion that at peach we are about much more than selling great products to women. Our stylists are caregivers, focused on helping women feel confident and beautiful.
How do you feel about how peach is supporting breast cancer awareness?
Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn’t aware of best practices in terms of breast cancer prevention, or the real benefits of self examinations. I caught it early and that made a big difference in my life. Because of this, I love that throughout the whole month of October, peach has included a self-exam instruction guide in all of our client packages, along with data points on awareness and prevention through our social media. peach is also a sponsor of Art beCAUSE Breast Cancer Foundation, an amazing research organization that focuses on finding the environmental causes of breast cancer. Most importantly, I am so proud of the many peach stylists who are supporting breast cancer awareness by contributing a percentage of their sales towards research