From breast cancer survivor to fashion designer
Dana Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer a day before her 28th birthday, turning her world upside down. The diagnosis led to bilateral mastectomies, breast reconstruction and chemotherapy, which left her grappling with a new reality and a body that seemed unfamiliar to her shortly before her wedding.
"I just felt like I was a teenage girl all over again, trying to figure out a new body because nothing ever fit me," said Donofree.
The birth of a mission and a dream realized
Donofree's diagnosis unveiled a glaring gap in the market for intimate apparel catering to women like her. Yet from the depths of her struggle with clothing emerged a powerful mission – to ensure women had bras that made them feel beautiful, confident and supported after breast cancer.
Donofree always had a flair for style and aspired since childhood to work in fashion.
"I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer," said Donofree. "In some of my earliest memories, I was taught how to sew by my grandmother, who was a master tailor. And my mom gave me the gift to be an individual and be myself."
Her sense of individuality was coupled with a drive to succeed.
"If they said, 'You can't go to art school because you'll never make money.'" said Donofree. "I went to art school and made a lot of money."
This drive and passion for fashion would later become the cornerstone of her mission to dress breast cancer survivors.
Designing post-breast surgery apparel
Leaning on her background from Savannah College of Art and Design, Donofree launched AnaOno in 2014, a revolutionary line of intimate apparel dedicated to post-breast surgery women.
Their inclusive range of bras caters to women with unilateral reconstruction, flat closure and flap reconstruction, to name a few. The AnaOno website poignantly states, "We recognize not all chests are (re)created equal."
The name AnaOno itself was developed as a play on the designer's name and breast reconstruction surgery by taking the "double D's" out of Dana Donofree.
A personal journey of recovery
Donofree initially had bilateral skin-sparing mastectomies with subpectoral implants. She had a successful reconstruction and was happy with it, but she knew a decade later that there were newer surgical options, which she wanted to explore.
She was looking for revision surgery, specifically focusing on the opportunity to convert her subpectoral implants to prepectoral implants. She first met her revision surgeon, Ron Israeli, MD, at her 2018 New York Fashion Week show.
"We had nippleless implant reconstructions walking on the runway," said Donofree. "We had flat chests. We had every body represented. And it was really a moment in time."
In 2021, guided by her doctor, she opted for a prepectoral approach, enhancing her recovery and chest strength. This decision showed her proactive nature and her surgeon's patient-focused approach to her health.
Israeli worked with Donofree on a multimedia breast reconstruction project with photography and sculpture called Project Restored. He praises her commitment to helping women facing breast cancer.
"I think that she's really dedicated herself to the empowerment of women facing breast cancer through every aspect of her life, whether it's her professional life, through her advocacy or her charitable work," said Israeli.
Dedication and impact
Donofree's resilience, innovation and drive to uplift others are evident in every facet of her work in clothing design. Her impact is best encapsulated in the stories of the women she has touched. One particularly poignant moment occurred when a woman approached Donofree after trying on one of her AnaOno brand bras.
Tearfully, she shared that it was the first time she felt beautiful since her surgery. A week later, the woman sent Donofree a thank you note that explained her daughter's reaction to the experience: "Mommy, that's the first time I've seen you smile since you got diagnosed with breast cancer."
These moments are what drive Donofree to continue her mission.
"It's just something small that can make a world of difference," said Donofree.
The intimate wear shows the profound impact a thoughtfully designed product can have on the lives of breast cancer survivors. Donofree's journey from a young cancer patient to a successful fashion designer is an inspiration. It displays the power of resilience, innovation and compassion for women recovering from breast cancer.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.