by Josh Levin, CEO, LympheDIVAs
I’ll never forget the day in 2007 when my older sister, Rachel Levin Troxell, called me to share the news. Not about breast cancer – our family had already recovered from the shock of Rachel’s diagnosis at an impossibly young age of 34. This was different. This was lymphedema, a lifelong side effect of breast cancer treatment that can cause permanent swelling in the arms.
“My doctors and therapists are telling me I have to wear this horrible rough textured, heavy, hot, bandage-like sleeve every day for the rest of my life! What’s worse – it’s beige!” Rachel sounded angry, indignant, yet resolute. “There has to be a better way.”
Rachel wasn’t the only breast cancer survivor to feel that lymphedema was an unfair “gift” after a long, hard health journey. It’s estimated that 6.8 million individuals in the United States have, or are at risk to develop, lymphedema. That’s up to 56 percent of women who undergo breast cancer surgery – far too many to justify uncomfortable, ill-fitting, ugly garments. Women, especially those who beat cancer, deserve more.
Rachel was a survivor in every sense of the word, but her incensed declaration was the catalyst of a legacy that would touch more lives than she could have imagined. Determined to create “a better way,” Rachel and a fellow breast cancer survivor met with a fashion designer to discuss their idea of creating an elegant, comfortable and medically correct compression sleeve. LympheDIVAs was born, offering women living with lymphedema comfort, choice, and personal expression where there was none – and it turned an industry on its head.
In late 2007, Rachel discovered her breast cancer had returned. A fighter to the end, she continued building LympheDIVAs, talking to her fellow survivors and encouraging them to truly live with lymphedema, incorporating an ever-expanding selection of gorgeous LympheDIVAs sleeves and gauntlets she lovingly brought to market each spring and fall.
Rachel died January 22, 2008 at the age of 37, but her legacy of helping women with lymphedema feel beautiful, strong and confident is a continuing source of deep joy for our entire family. As the President of LympheDIVAs since 2010, Rachel’s dream has become my life work and passion. Our father, Dr. Howard Levin, remains on board as Chief Medical Officer, ensuring that our garments are as medically correct as they are beautiful.
Rachel inspired thousands to look beyond a lifelong condition and find beauty within its unsightly confines. But we are inspired daily by what our customers do in their LympheDIVAs sleeves. LympheDIVAs customers win fitness competitions, travel the world, raise kids, succeed in their chosen careers – and so much more. We feel fortunate to offer a little support – physically and emotionally – to women living with lymphedema, who are just as heroic to us as our beloved Rachel.