When Rachel Troxell was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-2000s, she developed lymphedema, a side effect of breast cancer treatment that causes buildup of lymph fluid in the tissue just under your skin. In her case, she had permanent swelling in her arms. When she was told to wear a compression sleeve to control the swelling, she discovered that the only offerings available were rough, textured, heavy — and boring bandage-looking beige.
So she and a partner, Robin Miller, met with a fashion designer to discuss how to create a more stylish and comfortable sleeve. With that unique mission in mind, the two women made a commitment to help make life better for women who would need to wear gloves or arm sleeves — for life — and, in 2006, they launched LympheDIVAs.
There would soon be more obstacles to face, including Miller leaving the company in 2007 and, soon after, Troxell learning her breast cancer had returned. Still, she kept building the company throughout her treatment.
Sadly, in 2008, Troxell died of breast cancer at the age of 37, but her father and younger brother, Josh Levin, who joined the company later, have remained determined to keep her mission alive.
They’ve done that and more. Today, the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, company has expanded its offerings, and six years ago it added compression wear for men who have had breast cancer — aka LympheDUDES.
The desire for medical-grade compression that’s also chic has resonated with customers, which the numbers bear out.
“Whenever a person has had axillary node dissection and radiation, almost half are at risk of lymphedema and will spend the rest of their life needing compression,” says Levin, president of the 16-year-old company. “We think it’s so important that these garments are stylish and fun.”
To that end, the company is known for its designs that depict colorful florals. Available online and for retailers globally, all its products are 100 percent seamless because seams can be irritating and prompt friction. They also feature four-way stretch and moisture-wicking fabrics.
Today, Levin has a full-time designer who works in-house to create about 100 different pattern choices for sleeves and gloves. Levin plans to soon expand the company’s products to include knee-high compression socks for anyone who needs leg compression due to diabetes, blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis.
“Rachel never wanted someone to look or feel like they’re sick,” he says. “Instead, she set out to create something people would want to wear by treating their sleeves as a funky accessory and a way to feel empowered to manage their lymphedema with style, grace, and confidence.”
In the end, the business is a tribute to Troxell’s creative vision.
“My sister literally changed the product offerings that were out there,” Levin says. “When she started out, the only option was a medical beige tone. Now we can offer customers beautiful patterns they’ll like wearing. That’s what Rachel always wanted — and that’s what we plan to keep offering our customers.”