The atmosphere was charged with emotion as the audience applauded breast cancer patients and health workers who braved the catwalk for a fundraising fashion show at the Glades on Thursday 14 October.
The highlight of the shopping centre’s breast cancer awareness fortnight, the spectacular fashion show brought members of the audience, who had paid £10 for a seat at the fundraiser, to their feet in admiration for the models. “The response from the audience was quite amazing,” says Marie Connor, 45, a Human Resources Administrator and breast cancer sufferer from Orpington, “and really helped me to overcome my nerves. I modelled in the show last year and it was such fun that, despite feeling horribly nervous, I simply couldn’t turn down the chance to do it again!”
Raising vital funds
Money raised through staging the fashion show will benefit the Lymph Node Analyser Appeal (LNAA), the cause selected by the Glades as its nominated charity for a period of 18 months. Although a lymph node analyser – a device that gives test results on the day of biopsy, avoiding anxious waiting time – has been purchased for the Chartwell Unit, funds are required to resource it. Explains Mr Desai, “Traditionally, women had to wait about two weeks for the results of a sentinel node biopsy, but the lymph node analyser enables us to carry out both the investigation and all the required lymph surgery in one operation, improving the lives of patients and also saving the hospital money. Consequently, we are thrilled that the Glades has decided to raise funds for our appeal to help keep this vital service available for the benefit of our patients.”
The fashion show models are committed to raising funds to make the lymph node analyser available for all women in the local area. Explains 54-year-old Sally Glynn from Beckenham, a Finance Officer at Bickley Primary School, “I had to wait over three weeks before hearing the news that my lymph nodes were nearly all infected. Those three weeks were very tense – especially as it was over the Christmas period.” Samantha Crinnion, 42 and a primary school head teacher from Bromley, has been a prodigious fundraiser since her diagnosis this time last year, raising over £100,000 for the LNAA and playing a key role in its steering group. She agrees that the equipment is vital: “It reduces the surgery required for many patients, speeds up diagnosis and means that, if required, life-saving chemotherapy treatment can start much sooner.”
In introducing the show, Mr Desai paid tribute to Beth Callan – a model in last year’s show, who sadly lost her battle with breast cancer earlier this year – whose family formed part of the audience at the Glades on Thursday. Despite their enormous emotional and physical suffering, all the models remain remarkably upbeat. “Breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence,” says Sarah Clark, a 41-year-old medical secretary from Chislehurst. After being diagnosed at just 34, she has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone treatment, a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. “I have had fantastic treatment from the Chartwell Unit,” she says, “and I feel really positive.” Jackie Smith, 54 and a housing association carer from Bickley, agrees that keeping positive is key. “I’m still on medication now,” she says, “but in March next year I will be signed off by the PRUH after ten years clear of the disease. It’s been a privilege to take part in the show to prove that there is life after cancer.” The patients are unanimous in their advice to other women – Samantha Crinnion sums up their warning: “Be vigilant. Any change in a breast is not normal and must be checked out.”
Treadmill marathon success
Over £400 was raised for the LNAA when staff and retailers from the Glades took part in a sponsored treadmill marathon on Sunday 10 October. While Mark Mullin, Security Manager, completed the whole 26 miles by himself, other runners spilt the distance between them – including the Glades’ General Manager, Howard Oldstein, who clocked up an impressive 10 miles. Says Howard, “It was quite exhausting to run that distance but we were all delighted to be raising money for such a worthwhile cause.”
The Glades’ breast cancer awareness activities have also seen the return of the popular ‘Bra of Inspiration’. The supersized bra has come to life as shoppers have added beautiful paper roses – purchased for a suggested donation of £1 – to the display as a tribute to a friend or loved one who has been touched by the disease. Anyone placing a rose has also had the opportunity to write a short, inspirational message or dedication, which has then been attached to the reverse of the display. This year the bra was so popular that it was soon covered in roses, so small ribbon bows were then used to fill any gaps, raising even more money for the LNAA.
Commenting on the charity activities – part of the nationwide Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Maria Cooper, the Glades’ Marketing Manager, says, “We’re absolutely thrilled with the success of our breast cancer fundraising. The charity catwalk event was truly inspirational and a fabulous start to our Autumn Fashion Shows. I would like to thank the patients and hospital staff who took part, as well as our customers for supporting the event so generously. We’re delighted to be focusing our fundraising on the Lymph Node Analyser Appeal,” continues Maria Cooper, “and we hope to raise up to £30,000 over the 18 months.”
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Kim Frances is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.