Dana Dinerman was a healthy school teacher and mother when diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. Here, she reveals what it means to be a “thriver” and how that inspired a new career as a swimwear designer and cancer advocate.
Not many women who’ve had their breasts removed would consider themselves fortunate. Yet 39 year old San Diego native Dana Dinerman, creator and founder of Hulabelle Swimwear, is remarkably sanguine of the voice and campaign she has created from her single mastectomy four years ago. “I figured it was my life or breast, I choose my life,” she says.
Sitting inside her home office in the city of Poway, just 20 miles east of central San Diego, Dana begins to execute new designs for October’s San Diego Fashion Week. Having the opportunity to show her SS18 Hulabelle Luxe swimwear collection for both breast-surgery survivors and non-cancer clientele, Dana is bridging the gap in our society while ending the stigma.
After being diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in 2012, Dana decided to have a single mastectomy with no reconstructive surgery. “When I was diagnosed the first time, I wasn’t thinking of the future because I didn’t know if I would have a future. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was pretty scared,” she states.
Dana’s husband’s first reaction was shocked and devastated all at once. “When I called him right before the biopsy scared out of my mind, he still did not truly understand the situation as the doctor in the room with me was very concerned and knew I had breast cancer–although they couldn’t say that until they got the official results.” She adds “The day he officially realized I had breast cancer was when he went down to get my pathology report on his own. He went into the room and asked for the report and the pathologist was hesitant about giving him the results since they knew. He said when he read the results he was shocked and numb.” Arriving home later that evening, Dana clearly remembers her husband’s tears streaming down his face while he shared her results.
In August of 2016, Dana was diagnosed with cancer a second time. The cancer was lurking behind her clavicle, a location which doctors explained was highly risky, and so the concern was that Dana would lose the use of her arm. She boldly remembers telling her doctor, “I don’t care if I lose my arm completely; I have to be alive for my son.”
She decided to undergo the surgery and found herself cancer free, however, she also realized she didn’t want to be worried forever about whether she would again be diagnosed with cancer. “I received a lot of strength from my faith not to mention through my then yoga studio and energy healer. Both of them helped me to connect to my inner self and I was then able to breath and become well balanced,” Dana explains. The question of what to do next arose months later. Dana, a high school government and history teacher since 2008, found herself face-to-face with a new question of what she was going to do next.
The idea for a Hulabelle swimsuit collection was born while shopping for swimsuits for an upcoming tropical vacation. Wishing she had more options than the poorly made suits offered in medical shops, Dana decided to research, invest time and money into creating her own swimsuit line. Dana explains, “Hulabelle unites real women with elegance and chic post-mastectomy suits which are all strategically designed to fit reconstructed or prosthetic breasts.” Named after an antique hula girl bell given to her by a neighbor during a Susan G. Komen parade, Dana knew at that particular moment in time what her soul purpose was.
Discover Hulabelle Swimwear
Hulabelle Swimwear was then launched in 2016. The collection is comprised of bandeau, halter one-pieces, high-waist bottoms and bandeau bikinis all named after girlfriends who have undergone cancer. Suits are available in sizes 2 to 16, come in four colors including black, and feature a convertible halter to hide scars, if additional coverage is needed. “My favorite swimwear line comes from Brazillian designer, Paula Hermanny,” Dana explains. “Her ViX Swimwear is made with beautiful fabrics and unique trims and ironically I discovered the lump in my breast while wearing her ViX bikini.”
For more inspiring stories, meet Tina Doueihi, Founder & Creator of Red Fern Lingerie