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Cancer Fashion

by Christy LorioSurvivor, Stage IV Colorectal CancerAugust 18, 2020View more posts from Christy Lorio

Your clothing is probably the last thing on your mind when you receive those dreaded three words: “You have cancer.” There are so many other pressing matters. What stage am I? What’s the next course of treatment? Will my health insurance cover all of this? But we have to wear clothes everyday, so why not use them as a means of self care?

When I received my initial cancer diagnosis, I immediately started shopping for vintage cotton pajamas on Etsy. It might be an odd choice, but my rationale was if I’m going to have to lie in bed not feeling well at least I could wear something that makes me feel a little better and that paint splatted old t-shirt wasn’t cutting it anymore. I also culled my closet of anything I didn’t feel one hundred percent confident in. Here is how I did it.


Take an inventory of your wardrobe. Examine each item and ask yourself when was the last time you’ve worn it. If it doesn’t fit or, to borrow from Marie Kondo, spark joy, then consider donating it charity or selling it. Now is not the time to wear clothing that binds, pinches, or constricts. If the thought of clearing out your entire closet is daunting, opt to do a little bit at a time such as pants one day, shirts the next until you’re satisfied with your wardrobe.


I naturally gravitate towards bright, cheery colors. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re wearing sunshine yellow or fuchsia. Right after my diagnosis I met a friend and fellow cancer survivor for lunch. I wore a striped vintage sundress in all the colors of the rainbow. It helped cheer me up and lightened the mood of our meeting. It’s no secret that certain colors, such as red, can be soothing and calm whereas other colors, such as blue, can be soothing. Feeling on edge about an upcoming scan? Opt for a more muted palette.


The last thing you want is clothing that makes you feel uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean that you have to live in your pajamas though. Stick to natural, breathable fabrics, such as cotton and linen and wear clothes that make you feel good and are easy to get around in. Example: If you’re experiencing diarrhea (stupid side effects) it’s probably wise to pass on wearing that cute romper that you have to wrestle off every time you need to go to the bathroom.

Tried & true

During treatment, I didn’t feel the need to try new styles of clothes. I’m all about breaking out of my comfort zone and experimenting with fashion, but when everything else in your life is topsy turvy, it’s best to stick with tried and true styles and silhouettes. Leave the experimentation for after you’ve finished treatment.


On treatment days, you may need to consider dressing so that the nurses can access your port. I simply wore a button down shirt or a V neck t-shirt. And I definitely dressed for comfort! Aside from port access, you may also have a hard time fussing with buttons and zippers if you experience neuropathy in your hands. Make sure to have clothes on hand that you can easily slip off and on.

Cover it up

Many cancer patients will lose their hair. I did. No matter how many people tell you, “It’s okay, it will grow back,” it is devastating to see clumps of hair falling out. Play around with different types of scarves and turbans to find which ones work for you. I have two stretchy, jersey knit turbans in black and tan. They’re easy to throw on and work with just about any outfit. Headscarves can be a bit trickier, especially when you don’t have hair for the scarf to grip to. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and Instagram on how to tie a scarf, which may be helpful. And don’t forget about hats. I’m not a ball cap person per se, but I recently got into them as an alternative to my scarves and turbans. It’s been fun playing around with different looks while I wait for my hair to grow out. You can also bare your bald head for all the world to see, of course. Just remember the sunscreen.

Christy Lorio

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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