Designer Betsey Johnson does the splits as she acknowledges the audience after her Spring 2012 collection show during Fashion Week in September. Johnson is promoting breast cancer awareness through special in-store events and by carrying products whose proceeds benefit the cause. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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.”