For many women battling breast cancer, finding the right clothing to wear while undergoing treatments is often an additional burden. Shirts with front buttons or zippers that allow access to the body for chemotherapy, for example, are available online, but not at major retailers. Women who undergo breast surgery are usually advised to wear this specialized clothing, with openings for drainage as well.
Loraine Alderman, of East Meadow, knows this burden well. In May 2019, she received a sudden breast cancer diagnosis, which led to chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. She struggled in many ways — after the surgery, she couldn’t lift her arms above her waist — but she didn’t expect the added stress of having to find the right clothing.
There were no nearby outlets that carried specialized, treatment-friendly clothing, Alderman recalled. She ordered shirts online, but they were never the right fit — something she would have avoided, she said, had she been able to browse for options in person.
“My husband and I would be in the treatment room for hours,” Alderman said. “We had a lot of time to talk and reflect. There were so many people that were so kind to us around the time of my surgery and recovery that we wanted to pay it forward.”
Now cancer-free, Alderman recently founded Dress for Recovery, a clothing bank housed in the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick, which serves the Jewish populations of Merrick, Bellmore and Wantagh. The clothing bank will offer specialized, treatment-friendly apparel free to those with breast cancer.
Dress for Recovery is part of the Chabad’s Circle of Hope initiative, which it started in 2012 to help families coping with breast or other cancers. It provides private counseling, a wig bank and free meals. Chanie Kramer, who runs the Chabad Center with her husband, Rabbi Shimon Kramer, even went to Alderman’s house with food the night she came home after her mastectomy.
“When I went in for my wig, Chanie made a very stressful situation into as much of a non-stressful situation as you could, given the circumstances,” Alderman recounted. “It struck me, though, that everybody has a wig bank, so, we thought, why not start a clothing bank?”
Wig banks, Alderman explained, are common. There are several around Nassau County, including Circle of Hope’s, but Dress for Recovery will be the first dedicated clothing bank for cancer patients in the tristate area, she said. If it is successful, Alderman plans to make similar clothing banks more widely available.
Dress for Recovery will also help patients avoid the financial burden of buying new, expensive clothing, Alderman said. “That’s what the Chabad does,” Chanie Kramer said. “We’re here for the community.”
“This will hopefully help out many people, but all credit goes to Loraine,” Rabbi Kramer added.
Dress for Recovery has already collected more than 200 items, thanks to generous donations. Clothing can also be borrowed and returned, and Tiffany Dry Cleaner, in Merrick, has agreed to dry-clean all of the clothing for free.
Dress for Recovery will open on Dec. 15, during Hanukkah. The opening will have a limited capacity, but those who are interested in donating or receiving donations can call the Chabad at (516) 833-3057 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The event will also be livestreamed at www.CircleOfHopeMerrick.org/DressOpen.
The Chabad Center will also kick off a year-end fundraiser — an annual tradition — that will run through Hanukkah to support Dress for Recovery and the center’s other operations. The goal is to raise $100,000, according to Chanie Kramer; $75,000 has already been raised from private donations. The hope, she added, is that the community will help raise the additional $25,000, which will include quadruple-matched donations from private donors.
The fundraiser will begin during the Chabad’s virtual menorah lighting on Dec. 14. For more information, go to www.chabadjewishlife.org.