Dignity and Hope Harbored in One Boutique

by Lisa Moody Breslin, photography by Kelly Heck

Born and raised in Hanover, Diana Klunk owns and operates LifeChanges, a health and healing boutique for women living with cancer. A breast cancer survivor and spouse of a colorectal cancer survivor, Diana credits God, optimism and the love of family and friends as key motivators each day. Her family members include husband, Ken, daughter, Shannon, son, Ryan, daughter-in-law, Marie and grandchildren Lexie, Mya, Bryce and Brogan. Diana also treasures her spoiled Cavishan dog named Emma.

What thrills you the most about living in Hanover?  Watching the change and growth this area has experienced over the years while still remaining unchanged in so many ways. I am especially excited watching so many people work so hard to revitalize downtown, where I spent a lot of time while growing up.

What are your top two happy memories linked to LifeChanges?  I had a customer come in for compression garments for her arm. She had lymphedema as a complication from a mastectomy. Her son came along to translate for her, as she did not speak English. After I completed her measurements, I wanted to discuss a prosthesis for her, as I noticed she was not wearing anything, and her shoulder was beginning to drop. It was difficult for her son to translate what I was trying to tell her. So I took prosthesis and a bra, and through gestures showed her what I was trying to say. She understood, I was able to fit her with bras and prosthesis, and when I turned her around to look in the mirror she cried with happiness at how she looked. All done without conversation.

My other is the relationships I have formed with so many women. I have met and built deep friendships with many women who I have met through our mutual experiences with cancer. I truly cherish these relationships, and am honored to have some simply amazing women, who have touched my heart and enriched my life, be lifelong friends.

What has been your top challenge (or two) linked to LifeChanges?  Finding a permanent location for LifeChanges Boutique and Salon has created my biggest challenge. After our first six years at 400 York St, in Hanover, that facility was slated for renovation so we had to relocate. We found a location at 221 Potomac Ave in Hanover and did extensive renovation to make the facility work for our needs, but the building was sold after our first year there.

In 2016, with the help of Gary Laird, President of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, we were able to find the perfect home for LifeChanges in the UCP building at 788 Cherry Tree Court in Hanover and we are happily in our permanent home.

Another major challenge has been making people aware of the products and services we can offer at LifeChanges. We truly are a unique type of business and traditional methods of advertising are not always effective. Hopefully most people won’t need us, but if the situation arises when they do we hope they have heard about us and know where to come. But you don’t need to have cancer to visit us. We have something for everyone and also offer complimentary professional bra fittings by appointment for women who just want a good bra!

What are some misconceptions (myths) that you like to debunk about cancer?  A cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people, myself included, immediately think, “Am I going to die?” as soon as they hear the words “you have cancer.” Although unfortunately some people do die from cancer, many more are living healthy, happy lives after receiving appropriate treatment after diagnosis. That may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these treatments, but treatment plans are becoming more targeted and individualized for many forms of cancer. Not everyone who has chemotherapy gets sick from it.

Medications taken before, during and after administration of chemo have been perfected to significantly reduce the nausea and other negative side effects of treatment.

You can lead a perfectly normal life after cancer. Actually many people lead healthier, happier and less stressful lives after they have survived cancer and treatment. That second chance at life sometimes helps people to make healthier life choices, eat better and concentrate on removing negativity and stress from their lives.

If someone wakes up and just doesn’t feel like moving forward or even motivating, how do you jumpstart them?  Some days I think we all wake up like that! And some days you owe it to yourself to accept that feeling and just let it be. But then it also becomes time to pull yourself together and embrace the fact that you have woken up and are able to live another day. Each day is a gift. I encourage people who are really struggling to keep a positivity journal. Even on the worst of days there are positive things that happen, and if you write them down, even if it’s only one thing, the next day there may be two things.

I also believe that faith in God or whatever higher being you believe in is critical to being able to face the challenges that illness and life in general present in your life. I know I personally could not face each day without knowing that He has a plan for me, and I just need to put my faith and my worries in His caring hands and guiding spirit to meet the challenges of life.

And, I have a huge collection of life experiences from others that I can share to possibly help put things in perspective. Most importantly I can just listen and be present to validate the fears, concerns and triumphs others are experiencing.

What lesson has your journey taught you about time – how you spend it?  I have learned not to sweat the small stuff and to embrace the challenges that are in front of me each day. Time spent with family and friends is extremely important to me, as is taking time just to be by myself.

Biggest pet peeve?  When women are facing breast surgery, they should be presented with all available options to help them make the best decisions for themselves. That means if they are considering breast reconstruction after mastectomy, they know all the surgical options. And if they opt not to have reconstruction, they are given the opportunity to see and feel the types of breast prostheses available, and see that mastectomy bras can be pretty and sexy and functional all in one.

Also, if they will have surgical drains, they should be equipped with the appropriate garments to help with drain containment and still make them feel comfortable and protected. This happened to me – I was not presented with these options and was very uncomfortable after my bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction.

My wish would be to have an opportunity to meet with all area women prior to surgery to review these options and hopefully put their minds at ease about what they are about to experience and better prepare them for what to expect.

Also, people who do not get regular screenings for cancer. Mammograms are continually evolving, and the prep that is required prior to a colonoscopy is nothing when compared to the peace of mind knowing that all is clear and you don’t have cancer.

Inspirational book, person, movie and/or song?  Lynn Eib, local author, not only helped me greatly in person as my Cancer Patient Advocate, but also in print through her beautiful book When God and Cancer Meet. Her stories she shares about patients she worked with – some who survived and some who did not – are beautiful glimpses into the lives of others, and she includes scripture that relate to these experiences.

How do you de-stress?  I have recently returned to practicing yoga, which is a great stress reliever in my life. Also, time spent with my grandchildren and other family and friends is precious to me. We have a summer cottage that is only 20 minutes away but spending time there, or on a beach somewhere, is the most relaxing therapy I know of. And rejoicing in the fact that I have been blessed with yet another day.

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Author: HM

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