TLC star Lori Allen chronicles her breast cancer battle in “Say Yes to the Cure: Lori’s Fight”

say yes to the dress lori allen

As the owner of Atlanta’s Bridals By Lori, Lori Allen — the sunny, spunky and beloved star of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta and Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids — has helped many brides whose lives and families have been affected by breast cancer. On April 13 of this year, Allen, 53, learned she, too, would battle the disease.

“I got the phone call at 7:05am and it felt like somebody had hit me on the side of the head,” Allen recalls of the early-stage cancer caught by a routine 3D mammogram and follow-up MRI. “For days, I couldn’t tell anybody. I told my immediate family, but I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth, that I had breast cancer. I couldn’t verbalize it. I just couldn’t speak the words.”

Once the news settled in, Allen realized that she had a unique platform to share a story common to the more than 200,000 women a year who will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I feel like we’re not as open about it as we should be,” she explains. “I’m not ashamed that I have breast cancer! If we can turn something negative into something positive as a group of women, what better gift is there than that?”

Allen decided to turn her own journey into the Oct. 26 special Say Yes to the Cure: Lori’s Fight that chronicles the twists and turns in Allen’s treatment and recovery, which began with a double lumpectomy. “I was going to have six weeks of radiation and then be on the anti-cancer pills for a long time after that,” Allen says. “That was the plan. I thought, ‘I’m going to get this over with and it’s going to be fine.’ And you’ll see in the show that it doesn’t work that way. Cancer doesn’t work that way. Everybody’s path is different, and that’s something we talk about.”

Allen also welcomed the ability to let her family and friends give voice to their own experience with her illness. “My children are in the special. My husband is in the special. My parents are in the special. And the people that I work with,” she says. “The reason that we did that is because they’re all affected by my cancer.”

Few more so than Allen’s pal, coworker and viewer-favorite costar Monte Durham.

“We’re best friends, and he really had a hard time articulating to me how heartbroken he was,” Allen says. “So what he started doing was every day he sent me a different card. Every day! Some days they’d say, ‘Get your ass back to work!’ and the next day, it would say, ‘I love you with all my heart.’ But it was always how he was feeling — he would write it in those cards!”

Allen generously took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her diagnosis, her decision to do the special … and why you’ll never catch this steel magnolia saying that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to her!

Channel Guide Magazine: First of all, how are you doing?
Lori Allen: I’m doing good! I’m 12 weeks out now and getting stronger every day! I’m doing very well.

CGM: I’m a breast cancer survivor, too — there’s nothing quite as shocking as having to apply the word “cancer” to yourself, is there?
No one was more shocked than myself! I have always been so healthy — I look like the picture of health right now [laughs]! I mean, I just have been a healthy eater. I take regular long walks with my little Bichon a couple of times a day and have just always taken care of myself. And then to find out that something like this is lurking in your body was just absolutely shocking for me.

It took me a while to get where I could even tell people, because I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me — and I never want to come across as weak. That’s just not me. I like to be strong. I like to be in control. I like to be in charge, you know? But, of course, I had to learn that sometimes you’re not always in control. And sometimes you have to rely on your faith and the people around you to get you through these times. There’s times in your faith where you have to show that you trust. You have to trust your doctors. You have to trust your business associates to take care of things for you.

CGM: As much as you are willing to share, what came after that phone call?
I had an MRI and they also found atypical cells in my other breast. So that raised concerns. I decided on the lumpectomy because I am not an impulsive person at all — and I think you see that on the show. I like to think things through and not do anything rash. So I decided I was going to get the lumpectomy, and I had it on both sides.

I was very fortunate, because it had not gone into my lymph nodes yet. That was due to the fact that it was detected early. I had the new 3D mammogram and they caught my cancer early.

CGM: But that wasn’t the end of the story …
LA: After the lumpectomy, I still had atypical cells sitting outside of a cancer site, and they were very concerned about it. So my options were to go in and have another lumpectomy — remember I had atypical cells on the other side also — and if I had another lumpectomy and they still didn’t feel like they got all the cells then I would definitely have to have a mastectomy. Or I could just go ahead and get a double mastectomy.

So I really struggled with that in the show, with what to do. I end up having a double mastectomy and actually came to find out later — because they send your tissue for pathology reports — that that was the right thing to do. Because the atypical cells were all over the breast. They could have never gotten it with another lumpectomy.

I have another surgery in December. It’s been a long road. By the time I get through the second surgery in December, I will have been dealing with this for eight months. And this from a person who hasn’t missed a day of work in five years — that’s how healthy and strong I am. But when you get cancer, your whole life changes.

CGM: Literally overnight. I remember just being stunned at what my days instantly turned into and thinking, “This is never going to work, because I have so much other stuff I have to do!”
LA [laughing]: I know! The crazy thing about it is, at the very beginning you’re like, “How am I going to fit this into my schedule?!” You’re not worried about your health — it’s like, “My schedule! How’m I going to fit this in?!” My surgeon was thinking, “You are a nut!” Because I was like, “I’ve got two shows to film, I’ve got a business to run … “ And he’s like, “Honey, this is cancer.”

CGM: How did you decide that you were willing to chronicle your journey for the TLC cameras?
LA: The reason that I wanted to do this is because I wanted to take something very negative, and trying to find a reason for this — Why did I get cancer? Why do I have cancer? — so I’m trying to find a reason for this in my head. And I thought, “Well, why do I have two TV shows? I’m just a normal working mom here, so why do I have two TV shows?” And then it dawns on me — maybe I have cancer to tell this story. And maybe this story will help somebody facing what I’m facing be less afraid. Because, honey, I’m a big chicken! I don’t like doctors! I don’t like going to the doctor. I hate it! Right now I still hate it! But I got through it, and I got through it with flying colors. And I think if I can get through this, anybody can get through this.

CGM: Sounds like you’re showing some of the tough stuff, too …
LA: Some days were difficult to film. Some days I thought, “Oh, gosh, do I have to film this? I don’t want to film this!” But then I realized that this has got to be told. This story needs to be told. During this year alone over 200,000 women are going to be diagnosed with cancer. I’m just one of the faces of these 200,000 women who are going to be diagnosed with cancer. But my platform is, I’m able to tell the story and maybe help them. Maybe this will just hold their hand a little bit.

And it does need to be told. I know when I first told some people, they were so upset, they wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Like in the business environment when I was still working. I think it upset them so that they just didn’t know what to say and they couldn’t look me in the eye to speak. And you just want to say, “Hey, I’m still here. And I need for you to look me in the eye. I’m a person and I do have this wrong with me, but I’m facing it and I don’t want to be weak. So look me in the eye to talk to me!” It really, really bothered me, you know?

I think it’s because they’re so sad for you, and they think that you have one foot in the grave because you have cancer, and they’re so scared and they just won’t look you in the eye! You’ve got to uplift women. I wanted to be around people — well, Monte, for instance. He was like, “You’re going to be OK. You’re going to kick this in the ass. And you’re going to get through this.” I need that kind of people around me. I don’t want people saying, “Oh you poor little thing. I’m so sorry!” I don’t want that! Mmm-mmm! That just makes me feel sorry for myself and have a pity party — and I do not want a pity party. Don’t need one!

CGM: You actually tell your Bridals By Lori staff with the cameras rolling …
That was one of the hardest days of my life! And the reason why is Bridals By Lori is something near and dear to my heart. I started my store right out of college and I’ve never really left it. Of course I’ve gone on vacation and this that and the other. But for long periods of time? For the period of time that I’m going to have to be out for breast cancer — and to know that?

And these people that I work with — these people are an extended part of my family. I love these people. And I knew they were really going to be upset, and I knew they were going to be afraid for not only what I was facing, but also for what was going to happen in the store. I was putting a heavy load and burden onto them, which really bothered me more than anything with breast cancer — all the burden I put on my family, all the burden I put on coworkers. But you can’t help it. There’s nothing you can do. You’ve just got to.

It made it that much more difficult to do, but then on the flipside of it, it was almost like therapy for me to go and sit in the room and talk to Jen Holbach, who is our executive producer and has been right by my side through this. She was at every single doctor’s appointment, she was at every single interview with me — so I’m sure she feels like she’s got breast cancer, too [laugh].

I’d ask something and she’d go, “No Lori, they said this.” Because I was on Mars by the time they finished telling me what they were going to do to me. So to do it in such a public platform made it a little more difficult — but then when I went into the room and sat down and could talk about it and articulated my feelings, it almost was like therapy for me.

CGM: That’s important — being able to give voice to exactly what you are feeling.
I articulated things that you never say. “Yes, I’m afraid. Yes, I’m afraid I won’t be here next month. Yes, I’m afraid I won’t be here next year.” Things like that, that you are scared about and we all face when we are diagnosed. That part was really hard sometimes.

CGM: Do you expect to hear from the multiple brides who’ve dealt with cancer in one form or another that you’ve helped over the years on Say Yes to the Dress?
LA: When a bride would come in and her mother had died, I always felt a special connection to her, because I wanted to take away her pain and maybe to try to fill in a little bit as her mother. I always have. I’ve always gone the extra mile with a bride whose mother has faced breast cancer — and we’ve had many of them. I just want to be there for her and hold her hand.

One of my favorite brides was Julie Fillmore — her mother died of breast cancer three weeks before she came in, and my heart just went out to her. The whole time she was shopping, she was upset and I could tell she was upset. We just tried to make it a pleasant experience for her and then when she had her fitting I stayed right down there with her. I just wanted to make sure that she had somebody there that if she had any concerns she could bounce them off me like she would her mother.

She heard about the breast cancer and she reached out to me and said, “I’m just so upset!” But I feel like she and I had a special connection for a reason and I feel like that reason is because she needed me — and really I needed her, too. I did! Because I saw how strong she was in her appointment and how life goes on! And she got through this, so I’m thinking in my head, “You know, I can do this too!”

CGM: Have you returned to work yet?
After about five weeks after my surgery, I started going back a little bit at a time. I was still very weak, so I started going back a little bit and a little bit at a time. And I am now back about three-quarters of the day.

I’m not rushing myself! I’m letting my body heal and I’m working slowly into getting back into the groove of things. I will never, ever say that this was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, because I don’t get people who say that. That’s just not me. But I will say that cancer has made me stop and smell the roses.  I’m not going to rush through my days like a rat trying to get over here and do this and do that. I’m not doin’ it!

So I think that of the journey of cancer — and I don’t get that calling it a journey because I’ll never use that as a trip again, I’ll tell you that! — but of the journey of cancer, I do think that that is the most valuable lesson that I have learned from it. To appreciate every day and get up and be thankful you’re here. We’re always going to have to go back to the oncologist. We’re always going to have to go back to the surgeon. We’re always going to have to get checked. But that’s OK. We’re just going to consider it like a dentist appointment!

CGM: Yeah, you won’t catch me saying cancer’s the best thing that happened to me either, But it does do a really good job of helping you recognize what a problem — and a blessing — really is.
LA: My plastic surgeon said something interesting to me. She said, “You know, some people completely change their lives after cancer. They’ll go skydiving, they’ll change their careers, they get a divorce — they completely change their life. And I thought to myself, “Well, I wouldn’t change a thing! I love my life. I’m very happily married. I have a fabulous career. I love filming Say Yes to the Dress. I have fabulous friends.”

What I’m going to change is I’m going to appreciate everything even more!

 Say Yes to the Cure: Lori’s Fight airs Friday, Oct. 26 at 10/9CT.


  1. Sending prayers and good thoughts your way.Stay strong and know so many people are thinking of you as you go through this brave journey.God Bless

  2. Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way. I have no doubts that you’ll kick cancer’s butt….and do it with style and grace!

  3. My prayers are with you. I am a one year six month
    survivor. Keep happy thoughs and you get thru this
    in great shape.

  4. Lori I just love watching your show.My heart goes out to you but you can make it.I am a 33 year surviror.My grandmother always told me that God would never put more than we could handle.It makes you stronger and you will always be a roll model.If you just tell me person it could save that person life.My prayers are with you as go this journey.Love and prayers to you.

  5. Lori blessings for you! The word cancer at the begging is a scary word, but after we learned it makes us stronger! iI have cancer too, lobular carcinoma in situ and i got a lumpectomy, the doctors says is an early stage, there no need to have surgery just taking the cancer pills for 5 years! And I feel the same way I am an advocate now with all my friends ans family to have mamograms, mine was a routine one and this came up! May the Lord gives us strenght to deal with this process! Blessings from Puerto Rico and I love your show!

  6. I want Lori to know I understand exactly the mixed emotions you have when told about having breast cancer. I was diagnosed in Oct. 2010 and went through 16 chemo treatments and 33 radiation treatments. I understand the having to continually going to the doctors but that is okay. I understand how thankful you are each day when your feet hit the floor. I love your show Lori, and my husband watches it with me too. You will be back filming and you will over come this horrible disease.

    God Bless you!

  7. Lori,
    My husband and I love watching your show every friday night. We love how you get those “Roosters out of the Hen House” Take that spunk and get well soon!

  8. Lori all of my blessings go out to you and your family and friends. Stay positive you will beat this and you will be in my prayers. I am a breast cancer survivor, I was diagnosed February 4, 2007 I found the lump myself laying sideways on my bed and I had a breast exam 5 months prior to that, shocking ha. I was scared to death and I will never forget when they called and said those words “you have breast cancer” I dropped to the floor and threw the phone in disbelief. Now I was only 38 years old and I had a double mastectomy that was my choice and good thing I did b8iecause it was the best decision I made because I had cells in my left breast too, my right breast is where I found the lump so I made the right choice, I had 6 rounds of the triple mix chemo and I’m on Arimidex until 2014. Its great being able to tell my story to you. Stay strong, have faith and dont be afraid to lean on your friends and family in your time of need and have a good cry every once in a while, its good for you to release it. I love you and your show, I watch it faithfully and I will be watching your inspiring survivor story. God bless all my pink ribbon survivers.

  9. Lori, I love your shows and your humor as you deal with your brides and Monty. I just retired 5 years ago and closed my hair salon, now I am a 65 years old grandmother who found out in April 2012 during my yearly check up that I have Breast Cancer. Two major surgery’s later,healing enough for weeks of radiation and now 5 years on a cancer pill I am healing and adjusting to the changes in and on my body. Very tired but I am a very independent person too and stay positive and am taking care of myself too. It sure makes one stop and think and appreciate life after adjusting to the shock of being told that you have Cancer! You WILL DO GREAT and I look forward to your special show on your journey next week! I am constantly telling women to get a mammogram done before its too late. Thoughts and prayers to you as you go through your next surgery and wishes for a great speedy recovery.

  10. I am also a breast cancer survivor, I went through mine in January 2005 at the age of 43. I found the lump shortly before an annual mammogram and mentioned it casually to the nurse as I figured it was nothing. It was. As a previous poster stated, applying the word ‘cancer’ to oneself is almost impossible at first. I had a lumpectomey, 7 weeks of radiation and 5 years of an anti-cancer drug. I am blessed to be a cancer free survivor. Lori, I wish you every good thought, positive wishes and prayers. You’ll do wonderfully and you’re in my thought. Take it a day at a time and best of luck to you.

  11. Dear Lori,
    I, too, have just undergone my battle, its only been 27days since my double mastectomy and i still have a drain, i still walk with a waddle and look pregnant, who knew that would happen, but my nodes were clean and I don’t need IV chemo but I will be taking oral chemo for 5 yrs, Im 58 and the recovery has been too slow for me, but Im getting there, I love your shows, my 10 yr old granddaughter and I watch every week, its our girl time, so I’ll say a prayer for you and you just keeping bossing that cancer around like you do Monte!!


  13. I always tear up during show episodes when Lori reaches out to those struggling through difficult situations. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Oct. 2012. Was so shocking having always been healthy. I have survivd a lumpectomy, 6 rounds of chemo, 28 rounds of radiation and am approaching my final Herceptin treatment. Always wanting to be in control, I can’t tell you how humbled I am by the small acts of kindness I’ve experienced. We get what we give in life and Lori’s kindness and empathy to others will be returned ten fold. Using the show to raise awareness will only serve to benefit others and I would expect no less from Lori! What more can I say about a fellow Lori!

    • Every fan of “Say Yes to the Dress,” loves Lori Allen. As I watched the preview last night and found out about her breast cancer, I cried too. Just as you are still undergoing treatment, I was diagnosed on January 19, 2012. It’s a journey that not one of us wants to go through, but we are here to support one another. So far, I have survived 20 chemotherapy infusions (16 Herceptin/Taxol, 4 Adriamycin/Cytoxan, bilateral lumpectomies with reexcisions for clear margins and sentinel node biopsies (benign). I begin my 6 1/2 weeks of radiation and the rest of my Herceptin treatments next week. We take each day one at a time,thankful for each one. Prayer and a strong faith combined with being surrounded by earthly angels to support me every day are the things that help endure the battle. It has been so humbling to receive (and accept) the sometimes small and sometimes grand acts of kindness in word and gesture as I have gone through treatment.My heart goes out to you and to Lori Allen. I will pray for her and for you and all of the pink ribbon sisters. Lori will be an inspiration to all as she opens up her life and personal experience to all of us on television. God bless her!

  14. Lori – I too was diagnosed with breast cancer in Feb of this year and have had my ups and downs with a single mastectomy. I applaud you in doing this special. It is so important for early diagnosis and so many women are scared to have a mammogram. I am in for a long fight with chemo and radiation and who knows what else. I try to keep a positive attitude because that is important. I have started my own blog for my family and friends. You doing this special will reach so many women who really need to not be afraid to get checked out. I am going to encourage all of my friends to watch this special. Keep your positive fun attitude – which I know can be hard at times – and know that you will get through this and be even stronger for it. Best of luck and remember, as a friend told me, “It’s all about you now”!

  15. I was upset to hear about your journey with breast cancer. I’m always putting off my mammogram ,but after reading your interview on line I want you to know that I will make my appointment tomorrow morning. I hope this helps you to know that your making a difference in my life. God bless you. I’ll continue to pray for you.

    • So glad you’ll get your mammogram, good for you! My own mom had put hers off and now never misses keeping on top of getting checked.

  16. Lori is such a nice lady – I enjoy her show so much and she seems to have a great sense of humor. I don’t have a breast cancer story to tell, but I certainly can empathize. Lori, I hope everything goes well for you and I know all your fans will be pulling for you.

  17. When I saw you say that you had (‘had’ is now the best part) I think I was like many others when I gasped, then felt tears come to my eyes. I am a 51 year old teacher, and this December will be my 30, yes that’s right, 30 year cancer anniversary! I had a nine pound ovarian tumor when I was 21, two yrs of chemo, then a second look surgery. While on chemo, I still attended university – just a lighter course load b/c of having to miss a week out of every four for treatments. It was a difficult journey for me, and even moreso for my family. When I had my cancer, my mom was the age I am now! I would not wish my experience on anyone, but I sure did learn a lot about life and the
    many blessings that I have! PS I was bald for 27 months and have a whole bunch of fun wig (and wigless) stories – it was tough to lose my hair at first, but then I had a bunch of fun with it!

    God bless you, and thank you for sharing!! xox

    God bless you and thank you for sharing, there certainly is strength in numbers.

    • Bless your heart, Laurie. You sound like you are doing wonderfully. What 21 year old could have done all of that with the grace you did. I was 43 when I had breast cancer and my doctors said THAT was young for it, but 21, wow. I enjoy every day as they are a gift and I’m sure you feel the same. Best wishes to you in your future.

  18. Lori, may I say I am so sorry for your breast cancer journey. I also did a similar journey back in 1993-94 and I know how hard it can be. You are a favourite of mine on your televisions shows with your sense of humour and the some of the southern touches that come out in your coment, I just love them, and when you roll your eyes at Monte. I wish you all the best and try to keep your wonderful and wicked sense of humour I do believe it honestly helps in the long run. I am still here all these years later and you are strong enough to do it as well. I shed a tear for you when I heard the news today but felt you would be to hard to beat down,and that this disease was not going to get you. Best of luck and remember now is time for you.

    • Lori, I so enjoy the fun you have with Monte and the rest of your work family. I saw the advertisement on the TV of the special you will be doing about your journey with breast cancer. I was in shock! I just wanted to wish you all the best and return to the shop soon.

      • I plan to watch your special. I cry during the commercial for the special so it will be a teary night around the TV. You hang in there, girl. You have many, many friends that you do not even know that are praying for you. You are an inspiration to us all. I love you and Monte too!

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About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.