Yesterday, my beautiful friend Caylei, the editor of Cancer Wellness Magazine, invited me to attend the annual AnaOno x #Cancerland #fearLESS show benefiting METAvivor and sponsored by Eisai. Dana, the founder and designer behind AnaOno, created a line of bras and loungewear for women in all stages of breast cancer, and believes that beauty and comfort should not be compromised. With that goal in mind, and with the support of generous sponsors, the AnaOno show is now in its fourth year partnering with #Cancerland at New York Fashion Week and featuring metastatic breast cancer patients, survivors, and thrivers as models.
What would you do if you knew you carried a gene that could all but guarantee your chances of developing breast cancer in your lifetime? What if you watched members of your family pass away from this disease? Would you do something? These are questions the brave women walking in the AnaOno show have had to face . They’ve each found their voices and are telling their stories by embracing their bodies and their diagnoses.
According to METAvivor (Metastatic Breast Cancer Research, Support and Awareness), each year, 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer. It is estimated that six to ten percent of these diagnoses are Stage IV, and approximately another 30 percent of breast cancer patients develop metastatic breast cancer, meaning that the cancer has spread to other organs. Yet only 2-5 percent of research funding goes to metastatic breast cancer, which is why we need organizations like METAvivor to raise critical funds for patients and to direct 100 percent of every donation into their research grants so that patients and future patients can have better outcomes.
Supporting breast cancer research is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. My now 92-year-old grandmother is a 2x breast cancer survivor. She underwent her first mastectomy when she was 69-years-old, and after 20 years of careful observation and check-ups with her oncologist, she developed Paget’s Disease, a rare form of breast cancer that affects the nipple, at age 86.
The AnaOno x #Cancerland show represented more than fashion—it symbolized female empowerment and a world where previvors (those who were not diagnosed with cancer, but prophylactically underwent surgery due to a genetic predisposition), patients, survivors, caregivers, and loved ones all came together to celebrate their own unique story and reason for walking.
As if the models, fashion, and cause were not amazing enough, the show was held at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on Clarkson Street in New York City, which, if you’re a history buff, you might know this landmark as the oldest Reformed Synagogue in the United States, built in 1847.
It was a true honor and a privilege to sit amongst a room filled with inspiring people (more than 600, to be exact), who all feel so passionately about this cause. I’m grateful that Caylei invited me to attend this event and I was beyond moved with each touching story that I heard, survivor that I met, and every woman who bravely walked down that runway. They all inspire me to embrace my own story and to continue doing the work that I do every day for myself and others.