ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - Reality star and bridal gown expert Lori Allen is used to being in the spotlight for TLC's Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta. But recently she was in the spotlight for her experience fighting breast cancer.
Lori Allen's passion is helping brides find the perfect wedding gown. "It gets wild," she said. "But it's fun, I love it and I love chaos. I'm good at chaos."
But now, the owner of Bridals by Lori, which is featured on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta, is passionate about raising awareness about breast cancer. "I really feel like I was at the pinnacle of my career like when everything that I have worked for, because I've been in bridal 33 years, I'm no overnight success."
But a phone call in April 2012 changed everything. Lori Allen had breast cancer. "When everything that I had worked for was just finally really going my way, and then you just get blind sided by that phone call." "I had no lumps, couldn't feel a thing. And I was actually going to skip my mammogram that year."
The upbeat reality star was forced to take a break from running the 25,000 square foot store, which she calls her baby to focus on her recovery. But she didn't shy away from the camera. TLC documented her experience for Say Yes to the Cure, which aired in October 2012.
"When TLC aired the show, it showed me mad, because I was really mad at one point. And then you cry, and then you give in, and then you figure; now how am I going to get past this? How am I going to get over this hurdle?"
Allen says while filming that special in the spotlight was difficult, it was a way to make sense of her diagnosis. "I'm a very healthy eater, work out, take care of myself; I'm not a person that doesn't and no history of breast cancer in my family. So you take all that combined and why did I get breast cancer?"
And the show allowed her to raise awareness. "I have a huge platform of women that watch my show. And from that I had to do something with this. I didn't want to hide in the closet and people find out I had breast cancer through other means. I wanted to tell my story."
And her story has saved lives. "I had women write me, and this is crazy, but during the show they're doing a self breast exam and they found lumps and they were cancerous."
After a double mastectomy, Lori Allen's back at work and regaining her strength. "I can't carry as many bridal gowns as I use to and run all over this store and I'm not as strong as I use to be. But I'm going to get there."
And as she does, Allen plans to continue sharing her experience. "I think it's just really important not to be afraid and to know that we're so much stronger as women than we think we are. We're not meek and mild, we're strong and we can get through this."
While her priorities are different now, Allen says when it comes to her life... she wouldn't change a thing. "I was happy before breast cancer and I wasn't going to let cancer steal that happiness. No way. It's just, your whole priorities change. You become much more faith-based."
"I mean you really have to rely on your faith and you realize why we have faith. You realize that your family is so important to you and it kind of puts your life into perspective. You don't sweat the little things as much, because I use to be a really big sweater of little things. In this business you can imagine, if that pearl fell off, I would have a heart attack."
"My life is different now. And it's changed me. But I think when I look back on this past year; I am really a lot stronger than I thought I was. I think that's women's fear."
No way she'll give up everything she's worked for. While her brides say Yes to the Dress, Lori Allen said Yes to the cure. Allen says she's been overwhelmed with all of the support from her fans and viewers.