On Friday night I got to see my dear friend Pam, pictured here, and her mom Shirley model bras as part of the first annual ArtBra KC event. It’s modeled after a similar event in Austin that was started by Shauna Martin. The young attorney noticed there were no survivorship groups for young women in Austin, so she started one, the Pink Cowgirls. As they looked for fundraising ideas, they found a group in Australia that did a funky bra calendar and decided to do something similar, asking artists to decorate bras that could be modeled and auctioned.
When Shauna’s mother in law, Sharon Butler Payne, was also diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to bring the event to Kansas City. It sold out quickly, with some 400 people attending. Twenty-two women at different stages of life and different ends of the cancer spectrum were models.
All of them have a story, and none of them have sugarcoated the fear or pain. In an interview with the Kansas City Star*, Michelle Carder shared how she burst into tears the first time she saw herself in the mirror, and how much it meant to her to stand with other women and share “the one thing we’re probably most self-conscious about.” In that same article, ordained minister Geraldine Watson said five people on her father’s side have died of cancer. She was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2003. (*The KC Star article is no longer available on their website but is posted at fundraisingfirms.com. It’s worth a read–particularly Reverend Watson’s story about the little old lady in the waiting room when she was diagnosed.)
Pam was first diagnosed in 2006 and discovered her cancer had metastasized in 2009. She is 39 and has a 12-year-old son, Ethan. The emcee introduced her as having metastatic cancer and shared her nickname The Warrior Princess, which came from a poem I wrote for her. Pam is a warrior because she refuses to let cancer rule her life. Like everyone else at the event, she strutted her stuff and it was beautiful to see.
Pam may not be the best baseline because she’s drop-dead gorgeous. But every last one of these women, tall and short, young and old, slender and zaftig, was beautiful. They all know cancer is not fun. They all know it may, and in some cases will, get the upper hand. But on Friday night, they denied it. Their joy, beauty and defiance were wonderful to behold.
(Proceeds from the event are going to the Patient in Need program at Missys’ Boutique, a nonprofit shop at the University of Kansas Cancer Center. The program helps women who can’t afford the wigs, cosmetics or specialized bras that can help them feel normal during treatment. Missys’ itself is in honor of two young moms who lost their battle with breast cancer in their 30s.)