For 14 Washington-area women, first came the diagnosis, then the chemo, then the radiation. There was hair loss, weight gain, and a loss of appetite. For some, there were mastectomies. For all, there was fear. And finally, on Friday night, there was a celebration of survival.
The women, all residents of the District, Virginia and Maryland who were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s or 30s, gathered in the atrium of 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. Friday to walk in the annual Pink Rocks the Runway fashion show.
Dressed in every shade of pink under the sun, from the palest blush to the brightest fuschia, the women walked the runway in one-of-a-kind gowns by local fashion designers with the aim of spreading breast cancer awareness among the under-40 crowd.
Pink Rocks the Runway is an annual event coordinated by Pink Jams!, a nonprofit organization founded by Christa Floresca after she lost a dear friend she refers to only as “Jen” to breast cancer. Jen, a wife and mother of two, was just 35 years old when she died in 2007.
“It took almost two years to fully realize the profound impact her loss had on me,” Floresca said. “Not just because she was gone, but because until going through this with her, I didn’t think women my age had to worry about breast cancer.”
In 2009, Floresca founded Pink Jams! in Jen’s memory and launched Pink Rocks the Runway, combining fashion, music and a party atmosphere in hopes of showing other young women that breast health doesn’t start at 40, the age when women are recommended to start getting mammograms.
This year’s event benefited Capital Breast Care Center, which was chosen by organizers as the 2011 community grant recipient. Floresca presented the center with a check for $30,000 following the show, which also included appearances by local male celebs, including the Redskins’ Brandon Banks and DC United’s Devon McTavish, who modeled pink ties; a musical performance by Charm City Devils; and a special presentation of Christian Siriano’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection.
But it was the “real” women who received the biggest cheers, the whistles and the fist pumps. A roar of approval overtook the crowd when one of the models, Lawanda Fountain of the District, pulled off her wig to reveal a bald head underneath.
Fountain, who was 36 years old when she was diagnosed, has been cancer-free for two years. She says her favorite saying is, “Cancer died here ... it didn’t stand a chance in me.”
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