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Wales Online
Wales Online
Sromona Bhaumik & Danni Scott

Mum battling breast cancer launches accessible clothing line to help others

The realities of undergoing chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment are brutal with patients sitting uncomfortably for hours. One woman decided to make this experience more dignified with clothing designed to work with ports and other medical necessities.

Mum of two, Alexia Baron, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 while pregnant with her second child. She found that during her treatment she struggled to find clothing that made her feel comfortable and was practical, so she created her own.

Porto & Bello clothes have little zips and pockets in to allow access for chemotherapy ports, PICC lines and IV treatments. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime so the clothes are designed to be as wide reaching as possible.

Alexia, 31, said: “I remember my nurse asked me to name my port and I named it Portobello. I know it sounds silly, but it took away some of the anxiety of the treatment. I was about to start treatment and had a port placed to the left side of my chest.

"I knew that meant I needed access to my chest at all time. When I started treatment, I sat with my t-shirt around my neck, with my chest exposed. I also had a cold cap on my head, and I was freezing cold.

Alexia was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 - whilst 34 weeks pregnant with her second child, Mila, now two. (Alexia Baron / SWNS)

Alexia, from Finchley, London, had a port fitted when the chemotherapy began to affect her veins. A port is a small implantable reservoir with a thin silicone tube which attaches to a vein and eliminates the need for needles during treatment.

"We looked everywhere to find some clothing to make me more comfortable, but we couldn't find anything,” she said. “You lose a lot of yourself going through cancer treatment, and I just wanted to feel a bit more myself.

"One in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime, and we're made to sit there, exposed and cold. I knew something needed to change."

Alexia was 34 weeks pregnant when she felt a lump in her breast and pain in her armpit. The doctors initially thought it was a cyst due to pregnancy but she was referred for an ultrasound which resulted in her diagnosis.

Alexia gave birth to Mila before being sent for scans and put into treatment for breast cancer (Alexia Baron / SWNS)

The diagnosis was “a huge shock” and left Alexia feeling “alone” and stripped away what she had expected her pregnancy to be like. "Everything you expect to be excited about got taken away from me,” she added.

The brave mum had to deliver her second child, Mila, early on March 31, 2020, before she could get crucial scans underway. She said: "Once her vitals were okay, I was able to hold her, it was amazing.

“But the next day I was rushed to the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre for the scans I couldn't have while pregnant. Only then did we know the full extent of the cancer. "

Due to the timing of her diagnosis, Alexia had to undergo her treatment alone, which included a double mastectomy in September 2020. She went through her 18 chemotherapy sessions as well as her major surgery without the comfort of her friends and family.

Her pregnancy was cut short by the cancer diagnosis but thankfully daughter Mila is happy and healthy (Alexia Baron / SWNS)

Husband Josh, 31, said: "My life turned upside down. I was looking forward to my second child, and suddenly I was watching my daughter's birth on FaceTime. I couldn't see her for two weeks.

"I spent that time learning all I could about cancer and my wife's diagnosis so I could become the carer that my wife and kids needed. I'm extremely proud of what my wife has achieved. She wants to make a difference to the lives of people who are struggling like she was."

The entrepreneur uses her own experience to create products which help those going through chemotherapy or other intense treatments to feel more comfortable. She wants cancer patients to “not feel like a science experiment” during treatment and be able to go about their lives as normally as possible.

She said: "During the treatment, you feel exposed, uncomfortable and cold. We cannot treat people who are going through cancer as patients. They need to be seen as humans.”

The mum-of-two underwent a double mastectomy in September 2020 and 18 chemotherapy sessions. (Alexia Baron / SWNS)

Porto & Bello launched in April and is growing fast with an overwhelming positive response from patients. Alexia has also reached out to several cancer charities to see if collaborations are possible and also plans to extend the line to include children’s clothing.

“It's not just people suffering from cancer that are using clothes from this clothing line, but also people undergoing treatments for kidney dialysis, Crohn’s disease and sepsis,” she shared.

“It’s honestly been the most incredible couple of months just witnessing something I knew was a very real struggle for me, connecting with so many people going through the same struggle and that this problem needed to be fixed.”

Alexia said building the company was a challenge, especially with “two children, a lockdown and cancer to compete with” but she is determined to make it work. She added: "It was the most difficult time, but from it came the idea to create something to help others."

“Porto & Bello allowed me to heal and share my story. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you can’t help but ask: 'Why me?'

"But cancer shows no prejudice, and it can affect anyone and everyone. That's why I wanted to make Porto & Bello, to make things easier in any way for people facing one of the toughest challenges."

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