October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month may have ended over a week ago but over the weekend a local group hosted their very own fashion show to keep everyone aware of the strength of cancer survivors and mentors.
Last Saturday, Nov. 9th, the Women Guiding Women Mentor Program at Long Beach Memorial hosted an exciting event to celebrate breast and gynecologic cancer survivors and bring awareness to their program. Striving to change the narrative surrounding cancer, this fall’s event marked the eighth annual “Love Your Mentors Fashion Show” where each model is a cancer survivor and shares the story of their journey with the disease.
Everyone involved in the fashion show, from the hairstylists to the makeup artists were all volunteers. Even the very clothes the models wore were loaned from City Lights Streetwear, a local clothing store right here in Long Beach, whose booth could be found at the event.
All working together, through this fashion show, they had an important message for every diagnosed woman to show them cancer doesn’t have to look or make you feel a certain way.
“The main objective is for people to see that you can go through cancer and still look amazing…It’s basically to let people know that cancer doesn’t have to turn you into some old, haggard, decrepit person. You can still be beautiful and vibrant and lively,” said Susie Garrison, co-manager of the Women Guiding Women Program (along with partner Randal Snyder).
For Susie, the mission of Women Guiding Women is also personal. Having gone through chemo five times, Susie has not only survived her tumor but has continued to flourish and wants others to do the same. Thus, she became involved in the Women Guiding Women cancer support and education program where newly diagnosed breast and gynecologic cancer patients are matched with one of over 125 mentors by age, diagnosis, treatment, and doctors
These mentors are themselves survivors that have been trained to talk with and help patients over the phone. Though mentors don’t give out medical advice and don’t even necessarily ever meet, having someone to talk to who has already been through a similar experience acts as a beacon of hope for newly diagnosed women. At least, it certainly did for one particular model in the fashion show.
After being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in August 2018, Amy Kochis, 46, turned to the Women Guiding Women program for support and soon became a mentee. For her, the program has helped her “feel validated and reassured” and she hopes to someday become a mentor.
“I love that I have somebody at my fingertips pretty much. Whenever I need her she’s just a text or a phone call away. She’s talked me off the ledge several times,” said Kochis.
The event was attended by fellow cancer survivors, support and family members, and even several of the models’ nurses and doctors, all cheering for the women as they made their way down the runway. Concluding the show, the women – all different ages and ethnicities – banded together and held hands in support of their fight against the same disease.
If you’re a breast or gynecologic cancer survivor who has been out of treatment for a year or more and interested in becoming a mentor, or you’re a newly diagnosed woman interested in being mentored, you can call (562) 933-7815 or go to www.memorialcare.org/services/breast-care/breast-care-long-beach-memorial/women-guiding-women-program to find out more about the Women Guiding Women program.
By Jewel Sanchez