Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

In Search Of A Dry Night’s Sleep from Cancer Treatments Night Sweats.

A cancer diagnosis brings with it admittance to a fraternity that chooses its members indiscriminately; and for life. For most people, shock, fear, anger and anxiety are just some of the rush of emotions that come with a diagnosis. But acknowledging and effectively dealing with these emotions can greatly assist in the journey through treatment and provide strength and awareness as one moves in to survival.

Breast Cancer survivor Anne Best knows very well the importance of a strong will when facing such a life-changing event. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2000, the then 43-year old wife and mother of four young boys felt like her world was turned upside down. “I was happy, I felt healthy and was totally unprepared for what I was facing,’ said the Brentwood, Tennessee resident. She wondered how she would be able to live as normal a life as possible for her family while still preparing herself for what lied ahead.

Like many, Best immersed herself in everything she could find on the subject of breast cancer and once her treatment began logged every test, every x-ray and continued to pore over breast cancer material becoming, as she said, “…an amateur oncologist overnight.” Arming herself with as much information as possible gave her not just a better understanding of what she was facing but also about what questions to ask her doctors. “I not only felt better prepared when discussing the many facets of breast cancer treatment but was able to show my doctor’s I was committed to doing whatever it took to beat the disease. So when it was time to begin chemotherapy I felt like I was ready to take on the enemy.”

Today, Anne Best is cancer-free and has been forever changed by her journey. She not only became an advocate for women facing the unknown that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis, always ready to share her story and offer the kind of support that comes from a shared experience, but has created a successful company designed to offer relief from one of the most common side-effects from chemotherapy, hyperhydrosis, more commonly known as “night sweats.”

During her treatment Best suffered through terrible bouts of night sweats which found her awaking each night drenched and cold. Her husband Kirby, the former driver of the Canada 1 bobsled team, suggested she try one of his moisture-wicking athletic shirts and while not comfortable, and certainly not stylish, did help keep her dry. Upon the completion of her therapy, and wanting to make a difference, she recalled her own experiences and envisioned a line of sleepwear products made specifically for women that melded functionality, comfort and style. Working with some of the top fabric technicians in the industry, and after much trial and error, DryDreams Sleepwear was born.

At the time, Kirby Best was the CEO of the industry’s leading print-on-demand book publisher Lightening Source and took an active interest in Anne’s efforts. “As proud as I was of her beating cancer I was equally proud to see how she decided to take her experience and turn it in to a way of helping others,” he said. “I offered up my opinion on some of the manufacturing details and helped build the business model but there was no question this company was Anne’s vision.”

Anne had a few goals when she started DryDreams. The garments had to be functional but also comfortable. “I set out to create something that didn’t feel ‘medical,’” she said. “We worked hard to design a fabric that was silky smooth but still offered all the sweat-wicking and temperature control benefits. But most of all I wanted women to feel feminine while still providing relief.”

Anne also made the decision to manufacturer in the United States which was becoming an increasingly rare occurrence given the less expensive labor costs overseas. She and Kirby set up shop in Cullman, Alabama, an area known for having some of the best sewers in the nation. “It was a decision we were, and are, very happy with. Not only did it allow us to provide some skilled workers with some job opportunities but it allows us to be much more hands-on with our inventory. We also didn’t need to order vast quantities of product initially which, as a start-up, really allowed us to grow our business the right way.”

Today, DryDreams Sleepwear has helped countless women suffering from night sweats brought on by medical treatments to enjoy a restful, dry night’s sleep. The line has been created for women of all sizes and includes nightgowns, camis, pajamas and even pillow cases. And as further proof of her commitment to serving as an advocate for women, 100% of the profits after operating expenses for DryDreams is donated directly to a host of breast cancer research organizations.

“Our decision to donate our profits raised some eyebrows,” said Anne. “But my perspective all along has been how to best help women facing treatment. And the added benefit is that anyone purchasing our garments, which are also popular with menopausal women and surprisingly, college-age girls who like the look and feel, is also directly contributing to help fund cancer research projects. It’s a win-win situation.”

As DryDreams Sleepwear continued to grow, Anne and Kirby started thinking of other applications for some of the new textiles that were in the research and development stage. And given the amount of time they had spent in hospitals they naturally began looking towards the medical industry. They learned that despite the high-tech environments that nurse’s work in there really hadn’t been any innovation in the uniforms they wore, medical scrubs, in decades. They created a partnership with one of the world’s largest chemical and textile manufacturers, Milliken and Company, and set out to create a line of scrubs unlike anything on the market.

In March of 2010 Anne and Kirby, who had left his corporate CEO position to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, launched a new company called Performance Healthcare Products. Under that tent is their unique and already popular antimicrobial scrubs line known as Performance Scrubs as well as the sleepwear line which is now known as Performance Sleepwear. Both companies manufacture out of their Cullman facility and in the case of Performance Scrubs, is the only scrubs company to do 100% of its manufacturing in the United States.

“A cancer diagnosis is both hardening to a person’s psyche and liberating to its soul,” said Anne from the Performance Healthcare Products Nashville-based headquarters. “You go to places you’d never thought you’d go; both good and bad. But when you come out the other side there’s a strength that comes along with it that impacts your perspective on life as a whole.” And how did the diagnosis change her outlook on life? “Today I take more risks, I have more empathy and I’m just overall a more aware and appreciative person. I’m also running a sleepwear company!”

For Anne Best, her battle served as the lighting rod for a career dedicated to helping others achieve what may seem common to some; a good, dry night’s sleep. And while her day to day work is a constant reminder of her life-changing ordeal she now views it as an opportunity to support, educate and provide comfort, offering further evidence that the old adage, “If life deals you lemons, make lemonade,” is alive and well.

Anne Best lives in Brentwood, TN with her husband and business partner Kirby Best and their four sons. Anne can be reached at [email protected] with additional information on Performance Sleepwear available at www.performancesleepwear.com and Performance Scrubs at www.performancescrubs.com.

By Booth Vance

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