A decade long journey that started with a breast cancer diagnosis is nearing completion. Uriel Fox is a breast cancer survivor and a designer who is creating swimsuits for women with similar experiences.
“I want to be able to get out of the pool and not make any more adjustments than any other girl would have to. And other women are like that, too,” Uriel said.
It’s been almost a decade since Uriel was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my 50th birthday,” Uriel said.
Rather than go down the path of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Uriel decided to opt for surgery.
“I chose bilateral mastectomies to treat my disease.”
The road to recovery was a long one. Her entire life, she’d loved water — swimming, surfing. You name it, Uriel did it. But post-surgery, she realized swimsuits no longer fit correctly and her confidence waned.
“It was almost instantly that I felt at a disadvantage. How am I going to feel comfortable diving into a swimming pool or surfing or mountain biking in a tank top?”
As Uriel continued to recover her focus shifted and an idea was born. If swimsuits no longer fit or functioned for her, there must be more women facing the same obstacles.
Uriel decided to make her own swimsuits, specifically tailored for breast cancer survivors.
“I got motivated to try to put together products that would stay on your body no matter what sport you were doing, and you’d have confidence to move and comfort.”
She told her daughter, who in turn told her mom the idea was great. She asked Uriel to promise her that she would stick with the idea for 10 years and see it through.
“She was braiding my hair. We were going to the beach. We were down in Capitola, California, and I just finished a biography on Mr. (Jack) O’Neill and his work with neoprene. And it hit me then that I could reconstruct something in neoprene that would stay and that I would love. And I did that.”
Uriel wrote a letter to Jack O’Neill, the legendary founder of the O’Neill surf brand. The next thing she knew, she had an invite from Jack O’Neill himself come pitch her idea.
“I wrote it with my daughter when I promised her the ten years. I mailed it in September of 2014 because I wanted to meet him at the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Uriel said. “I think it would be nine years ago this October to show them what I had and ask them if they would help put women back into sports confidently and they said ‘Yes.’”
The joy and excitement of O’Neill’s backing was short lived. Tragedy would strike. Uriel’s daughter passed away just a year after encouraging her mom to pursue her swimsuit idea. Uriel decided to continue on — her promise and daughter always at the forefront of her mind.
“She said, ‘Mom, this is going to go. A lot of people will use this.’ And she said, ‘You have to promise never to quit.’ So I gave her ten years. Unfortunately, she died the following spring, but I’ve kept working on it all this time.”
Now almost 9 1/2 years after making that promise, Uriel is just weeks away from having swimsuits in her hands.
“My design team, the Evans Group in Los Angeles, feels that I’ll have a wearable, sellable, manufacturable product by the end of the year.”
Years of research, testing and experimenting have helped Uriel to find materials and designs that combine form and function.
She shows us prosthetics that are made out of memory foam.
“They’re light and smooth. They’re safe to be against our skin because we can sleep on it.”
Swimsuits designed by and designed for breast cancer survivors.
“So I would show them the problem areas of where things would slip. So we change the height or the tightness or the positions of the holders and they slowly came together.”
Does Uriel think she’d have made it to this point if not for that promise to her daughter?
“Well, I think I would have probably found ways to improvise, to keep myself comfortable as an athlete. I don’t think I would have invested so heavily and in all aspects to make it available for everyone without that promise.”
In the near future, Uriel said she would like to expand her line to include mountain biking apparel, dance apparel and more.