Dana Donofree, May 2021
Dana Donofree's Story Behind Beauty
Dana is a friend of SaltyGirl Beauty and one of our biggest inspirations! The beauty she exudes and the empowerment + badassery that she spreads is something that inspires us daily! We've asked Dana a few questions about her journey, her brand AnaOno and what she feels makes her beautiful. We're so excited to share our friend Dana with you!
Tell us the story that led you to start your company, sharing yourself with people and creating community?
When I received my breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 27, I felt completely isolated and all alone. I was introduced to my Mom’s friends, my bosses' friends, and even had a family member I could rely on, but no one was even remotely close to my age. The challenges I was facing seemed worlds apart from the advice I was receiving. I didn’t have kids, I liked my boobs, and I was engaged to be married, something we had to put off for a year to focus on my treatment. It was then that I thought that my story was different from the vast majority of breast cancer patients, but I was wrong, we just weren’t talking about “it.” That IT was a big mysterious black hole, it had to do with conversations about how I was supposed to feel sexy without nipples, missing hair, and no bra to fit my reconstructed body. Where was that advice? Where was that conversation?
It took me years before I found other young breast cancer patients to share in that story, and it took creating AnaOno to get me there. I went into my first (sort of) support meeting; it was yoga for restoring strength after breast cancer, called The Healing Chest out of Denver. I remember asking, “So, what do you all do for bras?”. It was then I realized it wasn’t just my problem, no matter the age, it was all our problem.
Was there a switch that went off or was it a slow journey to the confidence you exude now?
Confidence. I think this is a very strong word. I may even lean into not “confidence” but frankly, not giving a shit anymore. I turned off the switch in my head that said I needed to be something for other people. Cancer removed the veil of life, it removed all the securities we rely on, it showed me the real world, and in that moment, I decided to be ME. Not to worry about my hair, how it was styled, colored, because I didn’t have it anymore. My eyebrows, eyelashes, gone. My breasts, gone. So what did I have to rely on? I always felt people were looking at me “funny” - from there, I decided not to care. I knew who I was. I knew who I could be. I knew I wanted more out of my life, I wanted to be positive, I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to love myself and those around me. Maybe that is confidence?
Do you have any struggles that you want to share that you overcame?
I lean into the struggle. It feels for many, many days of my life post-diagnosis, every day represented a new struggle, one that I had thought I had already overcome, or one that wasn’t there yesterday. My biggest struggle that continues to get me is the weight gain from treatment. I was never skinny, nor did I want to be, but I was always fit. I loved my back muscles, those helped me feel sexy. I liked my toned arms that I would work for in the gym. I loved being able to do, not one, but many pushups before my diagnosis. I like to be strong. The 9+ years of meds took much of that away from me. The constant pain, lack of energy and motivation, and pure exhaustion kept me from the gym. I felt I had tried everything, even just looking at lettuce and I could gain 5 pounds in the snap of a finger.
I started to care less and less, figuring I had no control over it. It took me until this year to say I was going to put in the work, and I am getting there, slowly but surely. But my take away with all this, we can’t be too hard on ourselves, we lose so much to cancer, some can control certain aspects and not others, mine was weight. This year, I have lost 20 of my 40 gained pounds while on treatment, and I am motivated more than ever, but I had to get there. The meds ruled my life for so long, it was the right choice for me to go off them.
What do you love about yourself and your unique beauty?
I love just being me. My Mom will tell stories about how I loved to play dress up, design my own clothing, and express myself in only a way “Dana can” - but it is true. I am thankful to have had such support in my life to just be me. I don’t feel pressure to be someone I am not, and that is what helps me feel beautiful, strong, and empowered. I do wish all little girls were given that support at a young age, to play the sports they want to play, to dress the way they want to dress, and to say what they want to say and HOW they want to say it! We can only take this and empower the future of beautiful people to be themselves and only themselves!
Find Dana's beautiful brand AnaOno on their website, Instagram and Facebook. You can find Dana on Instagram
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