Now, twelve years later, Johnson proudly tells anyone who will listen. During October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, she’s holding in-store parties and selling breast cancer awareness products like “I’m a Survivor” T-shirts, silver-and-hot-pink tote bags, hot-pink panties and “We can do it” socks.
A portion of the proceeds go to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, a charitable initiative of the Council of Fashion Designers of America/CFDA Foundation, Inc., and the Weill Cornell Breast Center of the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where Johnson was treated.
“When I was first diagnosed I made my daughter swear over my dead body that she would not tell. After my surgery we had to escape, we had to lie. I kept it completely private — we were coming out of the HIV/AIDS stigma for so many years and for me it sort of overlapped,” she said in an interview. “The biggest fear I had was that people were going to worry about my business, my health and whether I was going to live or die. Back then people didn’t think about getting through it and going on to live, in some ways, even more powerful lives.”