The LoveRose Story..
Hello! I'm Caroline, 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.
Photography of Caroline Alexander by Susan Torkington
I'm Irish but have lived in Scotland for almost 30 years. I studied fashion design and worked in retail before returning to uni to study sculpture. In 2006 I set up and was lucky enough to be the director of a contemporary gallery for emerging artists in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, life threw some curveballs and stress caused me to become very ill. I got Bell’s Palsy, then the virus went into my heart, causing heart failure. The same week that I got out of hospital, I came home to a letter saying that they had found something on my recent mammogram and they wanted me to go back for further tests. It was surreal, heart failure, cancer, what next? It was hard to process, considering I was fit and not a sickly person, bar being knocked down as a kid, but that’s another story!
I’m married and have two wonderful children and instantly as a mother you go into superhuman strong mode. 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. At New Year, I held a ceremony with my family and burnt the calendar on Anno Horribilis! I had lost my sister Rose to breast cancer a few years earlier and another sister Mary was in recovery- three sisters in one family and we don’t even carry the BRCA gene!!
I lived the next year with a renewed vigour for life. I didn’t work, (I had never not worked), I was grateful for everything and I would say I took nothing for granted anymore. My priorities were different; it was experiences over things, family and friends over everything and we got a dog. (Best decision ever!)
Two years on, the cancer was back. A lot back, so I had no option but to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction, waiting until we got Christmas out of the way for the kids. 2015 I lost my breasts, RIP.
The thing is, I loved my own breasts and I was really sad to lose them. I had to stay strong for my children and pretend, I was okay but inside I found it really hard. 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 could no longer feel my breasts, they could be on fire and I’d not feel them. 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, and your body image. It can break your spirit. It might take your hair, your eyebrows and eyelashes too, it might take the part of you that you always felt made you a woman. The emotional and psychological recovery from cancer, for me, was the hardest part.
In everyday life though I still faced the problem of dressing, what underwear could I wear that was comfortable but didn’t look like my grans. I would describe the choice of post-surgery lingerie in the shops as ‘beige’ and online its mostly medical brands which I found to be too formed or a bit dated. I wanted colour, I wanted softness, I wanted matching underwear I would have chosen that doesn’t scream cancer survivor! (I don’t like that phrase) I found it impossible to find bras that were comfortable as well as feminine or sexy.
One day in May, to be precise May 27th, I went for dinner with my daughter and I wore something lovely but underneath I remember being so conscious of the big ugly strap of the bra I was wearing being visible. I felt like crap. 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!’.
Photography by Anna Isola Crolla
I refused to accept that what was available had to be my only choice! And so, LoveRose was born. I want to help other women who have been through cancer feel like they haven't been forgotten, and that we too can have sexy, feminine lingerie.
LoveRose, Love yourself!