Everviolet Chats: Lauren Lopriore, Breast Cancer Thriver, Founder of Liv & Let and Giv Shoppe

In this week’s Everviolet Chats, we’re happy to introduce you to the amazing mother, wife, breast-cancer thriver and founder of Liv & Let and Giv Shoppe, Lauren Lopriore. In 2016, when she completed treatment, Lauren recognized that she had put all of her energy into the physical part of healing, not the mental. As a result, life after cancer would end up being the most challenging part of her journey, ultimately leading her to share her story and a library of resources through her blog, Liv & Let. Initially launched as a place for personal writing, the blog has now become an intimate space for women of all ages to connect and educate themselves. In addition, Lauren has most recently launched, Giv Shoppe, in which she curates “cancer care crates” for survivors, previvors and caregivers, consisting of hand-selected products from survivor and women-owned small businesses. To learn more about the highlights and challenges of running a business, Lauren's fertility struggles and efforts to maintain a work-life balance as well as how helping others enabled her to heal even more, read her poignantly honest and candid story below.

Tell us about Liv & Let. What is its origin story, and how was it influenced by your experience with breast cancer?

I was diagnosed in February of 2015, and in February of 2016, I completed my treatment, entering survivorship. I had undergone chemotherapy and radiation and had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Now came the everyday worry around how to ensure my cancer stayed away. Survivorship, to me, would end up being the most difficult part of all. I worked from home during treatment, but transitioning back into the office was uncomfortable. My support system started to vanish after I was told that I was in remission and I physically looked better. I felt alone in what I was experiencing. I was mentally and emotionally not healthy, but I wouldn’t realize all of this until I was introduced to others in the cancer community, years after diagnosis.

After connecting with a friend's wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before me, and serving as a resource for three strong friends who were diagnosed a few years after my diagnosis, I felt “called” to share my story. I also realized how much I didn't know at the time of my diagnosis. There was little information provided to me about individual therapy, group therapy, cancer communities, conferences or products to support patients through treatment and surgery.

It took a few years, but I started writing about my personal experience with breast cancer online. I shared the ups and downs of chemotherapy. I provided an inside look on having a double mastectomy. Then, I created a library of resources. There were so many communities and programs that I wish I had known about, and that I could help others find.

That's where Lauren’s Library of Resources began. I started learning about organizations funding medical research, creating events to support Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) patients and providing financial and job support. As I came across these resources, I discovered that many had annual events featuring panels of professionals in the top of their fields. There were also writing workshops, programs, hangouts and workout groups for those who had been impacted by cancer. 

So, next came the calendar of events. With more friends now receiving cancer diagnoses, I received frequent questions about which caps, wigs, pillows and clothing were the best. Lauren’s Product Recommendations started to fill up with images and links. If I was going to share my thoughts and recommendations to the few I knew impacted by cancer, why not share it more broadly on a website for others to access? 

How is Liv & Let going? How is it evolving?

Liv & Let started as a space for me to write, but it has become so much more. When I started sharing my story, I said that if I could help at least one person, I would consider it successful. The site has evolved into a small intimate space that has given women, young and old, a comfortable place to connect with resources, events, products and each other. Liv & Let sends out monthly emails containing news in the cancer community, products to support side effects, upcoming events, ways to help the healing process and guest writers. This year, Liv & Let has also started focusing on nutrition, movement and mental health, highlighting how important these elements are, throughout all phases of cancer, for patients, survivors and caregivers. 

What made you decide to launch Giv Shoppe?

Product recommendations became a focus when I started finding amazing survivor and medical professional-owned businesses creating skincare, lingerie, pillows and other items that would have aided in my treatment. Even though I had had no clue they existed, why shouldn’t they be shared?

I also remembered a gift box that my aunt sent me, that to this day I still have, containing a blanket with pockets and two pillows. The lotion she sent ended up being such a great product for radiation that I reached out to make them a partner. I was motivated to support women who would later receive a diagnosis, and I have always loved curating gifts for birthday and holidays. How great would it be to start taking the items I love and putting them in care crates to send to previvors, survivors and caregivers!

I started researching gift-giving businesses, and while there were quite a few, I was determined to do it differently. The gift would be given in a basket or “cancer care crate” and further personalized through one-on-one conversations via phone, text or email. It was important for me to understand the details about the diagnosis, where the patients were in treatment and what they enjoy outside of cancer so that I could create something special. I wanted to offer a luxe experience with items that would last.

What makes Giv Shoppe unique, and what do you offer?

Giv is unique because not only do we curate gifts for the cancer community, we purchase from survivor and women-owned small businesses. We test the beauty products, wear the hats, lingerie, tees and jewelry and use the candles, aromatherapy and hand sanitizers. We ensure that each item is of great quality, and we know the story behind the business and products! 

Some of the survivor-owned brands we feature include: Everviolet, Ana Ono, Violets Are Blue, Zero Negative, Bravely and Co., Thrive Gang, Simply Zoe, StyleEsteem. Women-owned small businesses include: SeaLove, StickyBe, Appointed, Alice & Wonder, Tea Sip, Touchland, Enlightened Endeavor. Masthead, Tummy Drops and Euka are amazing brands founded by members of the medical community. 

Our product offerings include personal care items, clothing, pillow cases and pillows, notebooks and other creative tools and soon, lounge and sleepwear. The reveal is important to me as well. When opening a gift box, you first see an array of beautiful colors of tissue paper. Then, when you pull it back, you unveil a hand-tied bow wrapped around a basket, box or bag. Even the ribbon and baskets are carefully selected!

Shopping and curating a gift at Giv Shoppe is all about paying it forward. At the end of each calendar year, a percentage of proceeds will be donated to charities that empower breast cancer, cancer and mental health communities through research, education and care. Every month a care crate will be donated to a member or partner of the Liv & Let community.

What have been the highlights and challenges of running your community/info hub and starting a shoppe?

For me, the highlights certainly outweigh the challenges. First and foremost, the top highlight has been seeing the impact that my information hub and shoppe have had on women. I am blessed to have been connected to some of the most inspiring individuals.

A close second has been partnership opportunities. I never could have imagined the support that I have received from businesses, organizations and individuals after sharing my story and my goals for Liv & Let and Giv. Typically, I am not someone who likes to stand at the front. But I did a lot of research, took a risk by being vulnerable, and now, I am the face of a business.

While partnerships have started to grow organically, one of my biggest challenges is brand awareness. It’s hard to get your name out there! Many customers come through word of mouth or referrals. I’m learning a lot about what people are looking for in gift-giving. 

When I come across another gifting platform and worry about competition, my husband always reminds me that there are hundreds of water brands out there. It’s difficult to see others with a similar idea and not question if and how they are doing it better. But I keep reminding myself that what I have is unique, and I have a story to share. I’m learning about patience and how things take time to grow. I appreciate challenges, because I haven’t ever failed at anything or let myself get to a point where I could fail. I’ve watched many Ted Talks and interviews over the past several years and now appreciate how important it is to fail. Failing in life helps to build resilienceI love wearing many different hats and learning, through experience and conversation, what it takes to build a business.  

What advice can you offer women who want to start their own business?

DO IT! If it doesn't work, you move on. It might be challenging financially at first, but if you can find the right person, partner, loan agency or grant program to help with funding, there is no reason not to try. It took time for me to go all-in and talk to my husband about starting this business. I am not good at asking for help, and I've always struggled with spending money. But with his support, he enlightened me.

At the beginning, it can be lonely, especially if you don’t have a partner. Some friends and family offered support, but I was mostly doing it on my own. My husband was always there, but as an ETF trader, he wasn’t familiar with blogging or starting an online business. He was able to look through proposals and provide feedback as well as become my editor. 

It’s been three years since putting my story on Liv & Let and two years since sharing my first care crate message. It’s moving along at the right speed. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom, and this is my top priority. 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

Well, honestly I really don’t know if I have one! Work and life all are one, but I am happy to say that I love my work. My days are filled mostly with toddler things, but you can also find me updating Liv & Let, curating a care crate or writing. 

I’ve gotten better at organizing my days. I’m not always great about following a schedule and have a tendency to get off track. I try to workout at least four days a week, and I'm really good at multitasking. My one rule is... when we are on vacation, we are on vacation. There is very little email checking.

I also have added a lot more self care to my schedule. I enjoy pilates, yoga, walking as well as having fun with my husband and daughter. Nothing gets in the way of my time with them. My husband gives me time that I need for Liv & Let, Giv Shoppe and self care, for which I’m so thankful. He is the reason I am able to do what I do. I thank him for letting me do what I love and finding a work-life balance that works for me. 

You say that helping others helped you heal more. Please explain.

I started sharing my story to help others heal and navigate cancer diagnoses. Yet after a few years of writing, talking and being inspired, I've found that helping others is a form of therapy for me. Openly sharing about the challenges and emotions I experienced during treatment is healing. I have learned that I am not alone and how many communities of support exist. And I not only share these resources through Liv & Let, I also connect with them for my own care and support. I may be a buyer for the shoppe, but I’m also a customer, personally benefiting from all of the products I use. It’s my favorite thing to find new, unique and special items that I can share with others. Now, I get to offer items that support people impacted by cancer and curate gifts that become amazing experiences for the recipient. Helping others makes me feel good in many ways, but the most important aspect to me is paying my knowledge and compassion forward to other women – providing them with the best resources, care, support and community in one place, so they can focus on their treatment and living!

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

Honestly, I don’t think I can specifically pick out female leaders by name. I admire women who are going further, doing more, breaking through barriers and giving people courage. I also admire women who are taking risks, not hiding in the dark, taking a stance, falling and getting back up again and sharing their story. “If you truly pour your heart into what you believe in, even if it makes you vulnerable, amazing things can and will happen.” I also admire those who step out of their comfort zone and the norm to make things happen.

If I did have to share a few names, I would share Keira Kotler, Dana Donofree, Cynthia Besteman, Sonya Keshwani, Emily Somers, Zoë Zenklusen Payne, Stephanie Seban and Amanda Anik, Theresa Keresztes, Sabine Hairabedian, April Stearns, Jenn Greenhut, Leanna Gantt, Kristen Carbone, Jenna Benn Shersher, Kathleen Brown. These women are survivors and previvors who solved a problem and created something beautiful. They also took a chance on my idea and partnered with me to create care crates and giveaways! I admire who they are, what they’ve been through and what they are doing to support others, celebrate women and give back. A few other women include Kara Lyons, Alison Sustarich, Anne Jackson, Alexis Bone, Amy Bogl, Taylor Novak, Amanda Nixon. These ladies have been such a great support to me. I admire them for letting me lean on them, for what they do with their businesses or as an advocate for health and for supporting other women. 

As a breast cancer thriver, what have been your biggest challenges after cancer?

The biggest challenges after receiving my cancer diagnosis include fertility, prevention, finding support and defining my purpose on this new road as a breast cancer survivor. 

After I had my breast surgery and my hair started to come back, the small amount of support that I had started to slither away. “You look so good.” “You are cancer free.” Maybe I looked good to them on the outside, but did anyone ask how I felt on the inside? Yes, I was told I was cancer free or in remission, but did anyone remember that I was BRCA positive? I would need to check in with my oncologist every three months and then, every six months. I would have to have ultrasounds and blood tests completed every three months to monitor my ovaries. I would also have to get bone density tests, change medications and have various surgeries to help prevent breast cancer from coming back.

I started inquiring about AYA organizations supporting breast cancer survivors. It took a few years, trips and connections until I finally found other survivors like myself who were going through fertility complications and sharing similar concerns around childbearing. My husband and I wanted to have a family, so the changes in my reproductive system became our biggest challenge. It's something we're still working through, seven years later. Right after my first chemotherapy treatment, I would never have a cycle again. 

Can you share what your next goals are, personally and professionally? 

My personal and professional goals are always changing and evolving, but on the top of my priority list are: family, educating others to learn about their medical history, early detection and paying it forward for future cancer patients.

Personally, my next goals include growing my family, self-care and writing more! My husband and I are hopeful that the transfer of an embryo and working with a surrogate will result in another child. After having a preventative hysterectomy, my body has gone through major changes. I’m hopeful that by working out and focusing on good nutrition, I can keep my body healthy and young! I’d also like to start taking guitar lessons again, as music is one of my favorite ways to relax. Last, I’ve been starting to work on writing a book about my cancer experience, fertility roller coaster and life after cancer. I’d love to be able to share this in the next five years! 

Professionally, my goals are to work on expanding the Liv & Let community through a chat platform, sharing ways to move during treatment through Liv & Let Move and creating a way for patients and survivors to show care for each other more. I’d also love to one day make Liv & Let a nonprofit. 

Regarding Giv Shoppe, my goals are to get the word out about the gifts and services we offer. I’m excited about our new vendors, and I can’t wait to be able to craft more gifts for those impacted by cancer. I also want to donate crates and money to support breast cancer research and mental health organizations. I truly enjoy working one on one with the customers and partners, and I know there are so many things that we can do!

What does Beauty of Change mean to you? 

Can I just say I second everything that Everviolet has to say? I’m serious, but I’d like to add that change can be uncomfortable. Change can make you go through bouts of highs and lows that can turn you upside down. However, without change, our lives would be pretty boring. I’m not saying that I love the changes that my body has gone through or the decisions I’ve had to make, but I’ve seen how change can be an opportunity for growth, and that’s a beautiful thing.

For me, this year has been a year of change. I am learning each and every day more about who I want to be and what I want to do. I now realize that after cancer, surgeries, fertility complications, not being able to have my own children, putting up boundaries, talking with others, finding my true support team, adding more self-care and removing toxic positivity that I am more myself, more ME, than ever before. It may have taken 36 years, but I am really proud of who I am.

It’s taken cancer, nature, having a bright daughter, true friends, therapy and a beautiful person I call my husband to get me to this place, and I am forever grateful. I don’t want cancer again, but to see things in a different way has allowed me to take care of myself. Like the quote says, “You can’t truly be present for others in your life if you aren’t taking care of yourself.” I've come to realize that I am beautiful without makeup or blonde hair, because I am kind, passionate, loyal, resilient, strong and a good mom and friend to those who will let me. 

A friend of mine shared with me at brunch something someone said to her. “Do you know how you always say, 'Oh, i don’t know how she does it with juggling all the balls in the air and so much on her plate...she’s amazing! Well, that’s you!'" She then looked at me and said, "And that is you too." I’m usually not one to talk about myself in this way, but I nodded and thought..YES I AM. I CAN DO THIS!