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'Survive in the Buff:' Breast cancer survivor launches new company

Kelly Labella recently launched her own company called, Survive in the Buff.'
Kelly Labella is one tough “mommy,” literally. After going through 12 rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and six weeks of radiation, Labella has been cancer free for one year and is now on the move to give back to others and create awareness about breast cancer.

Labella, 44, who was diagnosed in December 2012 with breast cancer, is the founder of Survive in the Buff, a company just launched on June 28. Survive in the Buff sells shirts, decals, and hats with the company’s name and logo- a buffalo with a pink ribbon around its husk- on them.

However, the unique aspect of Labella’s company is she donates 30 percent from the sale of the products to Roswell Park Breast Cancer Resource Center to help fund vital resources to patients.

LaBella said she understands the challenges that women face as they enter into each phase of treatment and the tremendous impact the center provides such as free hats, wigs, and scarves to any woman battling breast cancer in Buffalo.

“You don’t even have to be a patient at Roswell,” said Labella. “Wigs are expensive and if people can’t afford a wig, to go there and get a really nice wig, it really makes a difference in your treatment, because you feel so [lousy] to begin with.”

Funds will also help with information on local support groups, prevention programs, resources - from medical textbooks, consumer guides, and survivor stories even storybooks and coloring books for the youngest family members affected by the disease.

The mission of Survive in the Buff is to create a spirit of community around breast cancer, which not only promotes breast cancer awareness but also supports those currently fighting the battle.

“We want to make sure woman know that it doesn’t discriminate by age or race,” commented Labella. “If you think it could never happen to you, I’m a shining example of that. It doesn’t pick and choose based on your lifestyle. I really want to stress to people awareness. Woman should know their body and if anything seems unusual go to the doctor. Just don’t wait.”

When Labella found out she had breast cancer it was something she thought she would never hear, considering she has no family history of any type of cancer and she tested negative for genetic mutations. However, Labella started having pain in her left breast and went in for a mammogram.

It was at that time, she was told they found a mass and they also found calcifications on both sides, which is evidence of tumors growing. She went for an immediate biopsy and the next day, she found out she had cancer. It wasn’t until three weeks later that she went to Roswell and found out she had stage two invasive in her left breast and stage zero on the right.

“It was scary,” said Labella. “The first thing I thought of was my son, Nicholas, and how he’s not going to have a mommy. I’m going to die and my little boy isn’t going to have a mom. That’s all I could think of.”

Labella said the coordinator of the resource center, Joanne Janicki, came into the room, sat down beside her, held her hand, and just let her cry and talk about her son as she questioned how he’s was going to get through mommy being sick.

“I didn’t care so much about what I was going to go through,” remarked Labella, adding Nicholas was only three years old at the time. “I was more worried about him. She handed me a gift bag and in it was a coloring book, crayons, bottle of water, and gold fish crackers for my son. What they do is they give it to patients that are mommies of little ones, so when you do tell them that mommy is sick and things are going to change, you give them this gift bag from the hospital so it’s not so scary for them.”

Labella said the gift bag made a world of difference to her, because it let her know that Janicki really cared enough to make sure her son would be okay.

Janicki, along with another coordinator at the center, are there to help patients from the minute they are diagnosed, all the way through treatment, into survivorship with whatever a patient’s needs are.

“[Janicki’s] kindness was just so amazing,” she said. “It just made me realize I could do it. That’s why I chose to give back to them, so any woman battling with breast cancer can have all the resources that they need. I want to support any woman that’s going through breast cancer right now to let them know that people care.”

Now, proudly cancer free for one year, life for Labella and the way she sees it has changed a lot.

“You just look at the world so differently,” said Labella. “I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. It has definitely changed my perspective on my life and what’s important. You look at your family different and it makes you appreciate your life so much more.”

To purchase any of the company’s products visit www.surviveinthebuff.org or for further information email: surviveinthebuff@gmail.com or “like” the company’s Facebook page.


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