One by one, the women — mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, sisters and grandmothers — stood, bringing to life the oft-quoted statistic that one in eight women will develop breast cancer.
“I feel so grateful and happy to be here. Once you have cancer, you look at every day of your life as a blessing, as a gift. You try to live life to the fullest because you know tomorrow is not guaranteed,” said two-time breast cancer survivor Maggie Hennessey Bates.
To celebrate breast cancer survivors, support individuals currently in treatment and generate funds to fight the disease that impacts more than 266,000 women in the United States each year, the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation hosted the Power of Pink Fashion Show and Luncheon.
A sold-out crowd of 920 women and men attended the eighth annual event Tuesday at Ingalls Harbor. Chaired by June Odom, the event featured wearable fashions by Carriage House and avant-garde looks by deLoain New York.
“Breast cancer events, in general, are very popular because everybody knows someone who is affected by breast cancer. None of us are exempt or immune to this disease,” said Noel Lovelace, president of the foundation. “This event, specifically, is popular because everybody wants to see what deLoain is going to do next.”
Armed with pink feathers, fabrics, wigs, fringe, glitter, corsets and shoes, deLoain Burgess treated the crowd to a fashion extravaganza, which culminated with two male models in plaid pink skirts and boots. Outfits by Carriage House showcased trends for fall and winter, including frayed denim, leopard prints, sequins, belted tops and moto jackets.
Since debuting eight years ago, the fashion show has brought in more than $350,000 for the hospital’s breast health and cancer services, which provides community screenings and free and discounted mammograms for uninsured women. Funds raised during last year’s event went to purchasing a 3D mammography machine, which the hospital received Thursday.
For women with dense breast tissue, the machine could be a lifesaver, said Dr. Traci McCormick, a radiation oncologist.
“If you have dense breast tissue, studies show you are six times more likely to get breast cancer … and a mammogram is much less likely to show it. That’s why we are so excited to have 3D mammography coming to Decatur Morgan, because 3D mammography shows cancers in dense breast tissue much more easily than traditional mammography,” said McCormick.
As guest speaker, McCormick tackled misconceptions and little known facts about breast cancer.
• Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of breast cancer. American Cancer Society studies show women who gain 20 to 30 pounds after the age of 18 are 40 percent more likely to get breast cancer than someone who doesn’t gain a significant amount of weight.
• Sitting less during the day can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women who sit more than six hours a day are 10 percent more likely to have breast cancer than women who sit less than three hours a day.
• Eliminate or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women who drink two to three drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all.
• Mammograms do not always show breast cancer. There is a 15 percent chance a mammogram will not show cancer when cancer exists.
“Mammograms are great, but if you feel something, if something is abnormal … it’s important to follow up with your doctor, be persistent,” McCormick said.
For Bates, a former resident of Decatur now living in Fairhope, a mammogram revealed the disease that led to her undergoing a radical mastectomy.
“Oprah Winfrey saved my life. I was 40 years old, had no family history of breast cancer and no pain, but it was breast cancer awareness month and Oprah did a show on mammograms. I think God gave me breast cancer because of my big mouth. Since I was diagnosed in 2000, I have told everyone I meet they need to get a mammogram,” said Bates, who battled breast cancer a second time in 2012.
Combined, the fashion show and the Lee Lott Power of Pink Walk raise $100,000 every year.