Battle All Day Q+A: Melissa

Meet Melissa, the breast cancer survivor we partnered with for this impactful campaign.

Battle All Day is Alala's campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer. To bring the program to life, we partnered with Melissa Gellert, a breast cancer survivor and goodwill ambassador, to create the partnership with Weill Cornell Breast Center to support the  therapeutic programs hosted at the center.  The program, led by Fran Conway, seeks to improve patients' overall quality of life by providing a variety of holistic treatments such as yoga, reiki, massage, meditation and counseling. These vital services are offered complementary to patients. As a survivor, Melissa understands firsthand the stress and anxiety associated with a diagnosis and treatment, as well as the impact of the Breast Center’s programming.

"There is nothing that can really prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of a cancer diagnosis.  I have witnessed firsthand the stress reduction that Fran’s programs offers its patients. The tears that are shed by these patients are something that I won’t ever forget.  Never underestimate the power of touch and kindness and its effect on overall well-being."

In early 2017, when Melissa reached out to Denise, our founder + CEO, Denise knew immediately that she wanted to help. She understood that with this partnership, Alala would be a part of something that was positively helping women today.

As Melissa puts it: “It’s an extraordinary thing when you can convince a brand to support your philanthropy. It’s even more extraordinary when it resonates with the brand’s mission statement so completely. I am thrilled to have collaborated with Alala this year. Through their charitable donation, we will be able to make an immediate difference with the Breast Center’s patients. I am so proud to be a part of it.”

We recently sat down with Melissa to speak more about her personal battle with breast cancer. Read on to learn more about her journey.

Can you tell us a little bit about what led you to partner with Alala to support the Breast Center?

I discovered my early-stage breast cancer and resulting mastectomy in 2015. I still can remember the kindness of my surgeon and his staff at the Breast Center.  It’s small acts of kindness that you tend to remember after such an event. A nurse’s offer to hold your hand during a painful procedure, a kind secretary when attempting to book an appointment, and a surgeon who never seemed too busy to respond to my numerous emails are things I will never forget.

The center is an immediate resource to its patients by addressing the anxiety of test results, surgery, chemo, radiation, and all of its aftermath. Looking to pay it forward after my own experience- I began to volunteer.

What advice would you give to someone else who just received a diagnosis? What support have you found especially helpful?

Reach out!! At the time of my experience, I didn’t have anyone in my inner circle who really understood what I was dealing with. It helped me tremendously to find like-minded women via social media who were experiencing the same thing. It was very cathartic to speak to people who were undergoing the same physical and emotional experiences that I was! Ask your doctors if your facility has any type of support group. It is so helpful when you realize you are not alone.

How has having breast cancer changed your outlook toward life?

I think it makes me look at the big picture versus dwelling on the little things or the things that are out of my control. It also really made me want to give back to other patients. I wanted to use my experience to help as many as I could, whether that was through sharing my personal experience or fund raising.

What should friends/family say or do after learning about your diagnosis? What shouldn’t they say?

I think it’s important for your inner support group to just let you know that you are present for them. Everyone feels differently about what type of support they want or need. From experience, I have learned that some patients feel more private whereas others are more open about their situation. Take your cues from your loved one.

Please let us know about your experience with the yoga, reiki and meditation program at the Breast Center. Do you think this is something that others would find helpful?

I can’t express enough how valuable the program at NYP/Cornell is. As a volunteer, it was chilling to see the numbers of new patients who came in every day. The process can be daunting. The anxiety before an official diagnosis can be overwhelming. The fact that this free program exists to combat these hurdles is extraordinary and should be taken advantage of.  This program is helping patients TODAY not tomorrow.

This program is helping patients TODAY not tomorrow.

I have always been a big supporter of fitness and I credit it with my ability to bounce back after my surgeries.

Do you agree that a new pair of tights can be inspirational?

Since my diagnosis in 2015, I have gifted as many women as possible with tights, including tights from Alala’s capsule collection. I can’t even express the amount of women who reached out to say how motivated they were to get back to exercise and how moved they were by our gift.

The response I receive is always the same. “Thank you for inspiring me to get back to moving”.

According to The World Cancer Research Fund International- breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. The American Cancer Society esti6ates breast cancer will strike more than 300,000 women in the United States in 2017.

Join us in the battle against breast cancer.