So one day you’re walking into Disney’s Animal Kingdom with your family when you get a call.
The news is so disturbing you hand the phone to your husband.
It is August 2010, you have just turned 35 and discovered you have breast cancer.
You are Kara Gorski.
The call was heartbreaking on so many levels, but it also made Gorski think of her mother, who died of breast cancer at 39, when Gorski was seven and her sister, Kristin, was 12.
When Gorski was diagnosed, both sisters discovered they carried the genetic mutation for breast cancer – BRCA1, which carries a 90 percent chance of developing breast cancer, a 20 percent chance of developing a second round of breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer.
Combined, they have six children – each of whom has a 50 percent chance of carrying BRCA1 and passing it on to future generations.
The sisters asked each other: “What can we do to bring something positive out of this experience for ourselves and other women?”
The answer: Innovate and start a small business.
“Through all of it, you want to come out being positive,” Gorski told Patch in an interview at Del Ray Café. “It’s such an arduous, horrific thing to go through. You need some happiness.”
Gorski, who now lives in the Rosemont neighborhood of Alexandria, underwent a mastectomy with implant reconstruction and a hysterectomy, as well as six months of intense chemotherapy and more than a year of an experimental chemotherapy drug.
The sisters founded braGGs, a company making bras for women who have undergone mastectomies with breast reconstruction. The business currently operates partly out of Gorski’s house, but they have a manufacturer in Baltimore. Kristin, a book author, lives in Kansas.
Gorski said she got a lot of entrepreneurial support from her husband who owns and operates Alexandria landscaping business The Greener Side.
“We thought we would be able to wear regular bras after surgery and implants,” said Gorski, adding that even mastectomy bras provided all kinds of problems ranging from too much padding to too many wires. (Her sister never had cancer but also had a mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.)
“I thought at the time, ‘I’m 35 years old. I’ve got the rest of my life. I want to function with comfort and beauty…and sometimes you just want to wear a v-neck,” Gorski said.
Gorski, an economist and Fulbright scholar, was upbeat about the prospect and got started.
The sisters hired a designer and currently have a patent pending design for their bras, which are wire-free, made of nylon and Lycra and include a special bra cup design.
They also raised more than $10,000 to get them through the first round of manufacturing via Medstartr, a funding platform for healthcare-related projects. They hope to be able to raise enough money to do a second round of manufacturing next summer. They were not accepted into Kickstartr, a similar platform used to tap funds for a wide range of projects.
Each braGGs bra has a special message inside such as “celebrate life” or “bravery is contagious.”
“There is no going back to normal,” Gorski said. “We want to help [other survivors] smile…we want to help women live and feel good about themselves….Our motto is just keep walking.”
Gorski also recently started blogging on Huffington Post and launched a "share your journey" campaign asking anyone touched by breast cancer to share a few words on different topics and an image.
The company is currently looking for bra testers and is reaching out to boutique owners who might be interested in carrying its line.