The company is called Stage, as in stage 2 metastatic breast cancer. And that was the diagnosis Virginia Carnesale received when she was just 43 years old. The 20-year retail veteran, who had risen through the ranks at brands like Gap, Nike and Gilt Group, now faced a bigger challenge than ever.
Carnesale’s story has a happy ending. She fought hard and won. She educated herself, made lifestyle changes, and chose an aggressive treatment option. But winning the battle against cancer wasn’t the end of her story. “Because I got into it, I became a source of prevention information for my friends and family. I just knew I had to pay it forward and share everything I had learned. And so she began Arrange.
What is the step?
Stage is a community and marketplace for women facing any part of a breast cancer diagnosis. “There are many ‘stages’ in the cancer journey,” says Carnesale. “The stage in the context of a cancer diagnosis can be frightening, so the name honors the fact that this is a difficult chapter in someone’s life; but it is only that, a moment in time.
The site was launched last month and offers women diagnosed with, treated for, or recovering from breast cancer a safe space to ask questions, get informed, connect with others, and shop for products carefully selected by survivors for survivors.
Giving cancer patients hope, information and cute pajamas
Through her own experience as a patient, Carnesale has learned that all breast cancer patients need three important things – which Stage is designed for.
1. Awareness – 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 85% of these women will have no family history. So more often than not, it’s a total surprise. “When you’re first diagnosed, there’s so much information to update,” says Carnesale, such as cancer types, stages, treatment options, and diet and lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your results and your survival. “Having this knowledge gives you power and comfort during a very troubling time.”
Stage features a wealth of articles, written by survivors and validated by medical professionals, covering every stage of the journey, such as “For those newly diagnosed, here’s what to expect” or “Will I feel sexy again?as well as advice on exercise, wellness and nutrition.
2. Fraternity – “I was fortunate to be in contact with other patients and survivors who could share with me what to expect with a double mastectomy and chemotherapy,” says Carnesale. But not everyone has this network. Stage provides a platform and community where women facing frightening and life-altering decisions can come together to share information and support each other.
3. Goods and services – “People don’t understand that battling cancer is a way of life,” Carnesale says. This may require button-up pajamas, scarves, wigs, non-toxic kitchen utensils and clean beauty products, and even a little inspiration. The scene is finely organized product selection, in 14 categories and by 40 brands (seven of which are survivor-led brands) makes it easy: all products are described by cancer survivors themselves. Even Stage’s customer service team is made up entirely of cancer survivors.
Although Stage is a for-profit organization, the company donates 5% of its net profits each year to three causes personally aligned with the heart of Carnesale.
Many young women faced with a cancer diagnosis are forced to make a choice between beating cancer or starting a family. “I don’t think any woman should ever have to make that choice,” Carnesale says. The scene works with The Chick Missionan organization that offers financial grants to pay for the cost of egg freezing.
The scene also supports unite for her, a provider of integrative and supportive therapies, because there is a lot to do to recover from cancer once treatments are over. “I have found value in therapies such as reiki, yoga, sound healing and meditation,” says Carnesale.
The fight against cancer is expensive, so Stage has also chosen to align itself with Samfund. It supports young adults experiencing financial hardship due to cancer. The group offers financial subsidies for expenses such as lymphatic massage and travel, accommodation and meals around chemotherapy treatments.
This month, the company is launching its first Gift Registry. “People just want to help you when you’re going through this process and often they don’t know how,” says Carnesale. “And they send you flowers by default, which is an amazing mood boost at first, but over time it’s not as helpful as buying you things you could actually use.” The registry allows patients to add items directly from the Stage product page to a registry; friends and family can easily send thoughtful and useful gifts that a breast cancer patient really wants and needs.
Stage also intended to expand her community beyond breast cancer. “I wanted to start with breast cancer, but we have every intention of expanding to all forms of cancer in women,” says Carnesale. “I just wanted to address breast cancer in a really compelling way first, but it will be very easy to expand our product assortment and content offering to cover other cancers.”
Carnesale has found a way to combine his 20 years in retail with a life-changing diagnosis to bring an invaluable resource to the cancer community. “I knew I was in a unique position to simplify the shopping experience for other women and create a community of survivors to lean on and learn from. And part of what I’m trying to build here is a platform that helps a woman maintain her sense of confidence as she navigates this journey – and to show her that she can still be beautiful. It’s my way of giving back to the community that I’m so grateful for.