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Gillian Curry-Williams’ fashion for a cause

For Gillian Curry-Williams cancer is personal – her late father Donald Curry was diagnosed with colorectal cancer three years ago. In going with him to his treatments she said she noticed everyone just looked dreary. However, it wasn’t until her father had his third treatment that she realized why when he told her that the chemotherapy took everything from him and made him feel like a whole different person – and not in a good way. She said that made her realize why everyone looked the way they did. That led her to asking God what she could do using her skills as a designer to help. She came up with the idea of creating a print made up of some of the colors associated with the various types of cancer – then she came up with the idea of a fashion show to honor persons who were going through treatment or had battled cancer. This led to the creation of  Remilda Rose Designs presents “Celebrating Life Through the Fabric of Hope” which showcases Curry-Williams’ spring/summer collection.

Curry-Williams is preparing to host her third “Celebrating Life Through the Fabric of Hope” show and collection on Sunday, October 21 at Breezes, with part proceeds earmarked for the Cancer Society of The Bahamas (CSOB).

Also, prior to his death, she said her father thought her idea of a fashion show for a cause was a good one. She was able to host her first show before he died, even though he was too sick to attend.

“I know this is something that my father was proud of me doing. I’m his only daughter, and I was a daddy’s girl. Anything that would have made my father proud of me I did it. And even though he’s passed on I know that he’s proud of what I’m doing,” she said.

Curry-Williams will show an 18-piece collection at her event, from which she hopes to raise at least $5,000 for CSOB.

Georgeann Farquarson, Cherise Evans Saunders, Jody Knowles, Frances Louise Brooks-Gibson, Errin Storr, Zion Knowles, Toni Callender Lewis, Ivoine Ingraham and Ivan Francis will be honored this year.

The cancer survivors were chosen from a nomination process of approximately 200 entries. Curry-Williams, the owner/designer at Remilda Rose Designs, said their stories were touching and compelling.

Zion, the youngest honoree at age 10, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012 at age four and was treated with chemotherapy that went into remission. She relapsed in 2013, at which point the doctors advised that she receive a bone marrow transplant. An 80-percent match was found and Zion received a stem cell transplant from an umbilical cord donor. Soon after the transplant she developed graft versus host disease which resulted in side effects to her skin and digestive system.

Today, Zion is fully recovered, leads a normal life and lives at home after three years in the United States where she received treatment.

Brooks-Gibson, the oldest honoree at age 87, has lived through many challenging events – a stroke, breast cancer and an accidental shooting in the leg by a stray bullet while driving her car off East Street.

Ivan Francis is a survivor of kidney, prostate and lung cancer and spent 11 months in hospital recovering after his surgery.

Toni Callender Lewis’ father Walter Callender had a very rare inherited genetic gene called Li Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS). Family members affected with the gene have a propensity to develop a variety of cancers which tend to occur at younger ages in patients with LFS than in the general population. The likelihood of persons with LFS developing cancer is 70 percent to 90 percent by age 70. Women have a higher lifetime cancer risk than men. For women with LFS it is 100 percent likely that they will develop cancer.

Callendar Lewis’ father died at age 30, her sister Tiffany died at age 20. Callander Lewis was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at age 35; her daughter Treazure was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the left thigh at age eight – three months after her mother was diagnosed. They would sometimes receive chemotherapy treatment simultaneously. After three months of chemotherapy, Treazure passed away.

In 2015 Callender Lewis was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma which was removed but returned four months later, bigger and necessitated a more serious surgery. In 2017 she was diagnosed with myxofibrosarcoma for which she had to undergo a 15-hour surgery.

She later started the Tiffany Treazure Hope Foundation, a non-profit which focuses on children with cancer, and giving hope to children with cancer and child cancer survivors. The foundation raises money to host the children to fun-filled, spirited social events – allowing children to be children, as they navigate the challenges associated with cancer and having to do chemotherapy.

Cherise Evans Saunders was scheduled for a routine hysterectomy in 2015 in an eight-hour surgery that would have life-changing results. During the post-surgery discussion with doctors she learnt that the surgical team had found unexpected complications and that she had stage three ovarian cancer. She had surgery and treatment and at the end of the year was in remission. She later learnt that she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene which predisposed her to developing breast cancer. Having battled ovarian cancer she made the decision to have a double mastectomy, without reconstruction.

Errin Storr, an advocate for a healthy lifestyle, said it came as a shock to her during an annual doctor’s examination and mammogram that a mass was discovered and later diagnosed as stage one ductal carcinoma.  She had a lumpectomy and radiation, and is still undergoing treatment.

Ivoine Ingraham was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a grapefruit on his brain in 2012. It was removed immediately, three days later – three days after that he left the hospital, coherent, talking, laughing and giving God thanks. Since then he said his mind is sharper, thoughts crystallized and now laser-focused.

Georgeann Farquarson says she can vividly recall her doctor telling her she had stage two-three high grade cancer, and immediately thought of her mother who died as a result of breast cancer. She had chemotherapy, and surgery to remove her right breast, and received a clean bill of health.

Jody Knowles in the winter of 2016 during a routine monthly self-examination, noticed a change in her breast. She had it checked out, and received a stage three breast cancer diagnosis three days before her birthday in June 2017. She took chemotherapy treatments, a double mastectomy, radiation and a total hysterectomy. She received the news that she was cancer free on August 21, 2018.

Each honoree will receive a Remilda Rose gown/suit designed specifically for them, complete with all accessories courtesy of Curry-Williams, who said she wants to give them a beautiful day.

For her the upcoming fashion show is personal all-around.

“My father was hard-headed. My mother, Letitia Curry, was a nurse, and she saw some things that she questioned with him and my father was just like a man – ‘oh it ain’t nothin, oh it ain’t nothin’ and when he finally went to the doctor they gave him something for it, and my mother still saw the symptoms, told him he needed to go and he finally went back and to go see somebody else [and] they told him what it was,” she said. “My thing is – first of all, if you have somebody that notices the signs, pay attention and listen to what they saying to you. And get yourself checked out. We just have to ensure that we eat right, take care of our bodies and just pay attention to signs and symptoms. We get things, and say ‘oh that’s gas’ or this… when all it takes is just a matter of going to the doctor and making sure what it is that you have and not diagnosing yourself.”

When she initially decided to host “Celebrating Life Through the Fabric of Hope” in October, she did it at a time when it was just off New York Fashion Week, and not because it was breast cancer awareness month. She said her show just happens to coincide with the month. Additionally, the fabric that her designs are all made out of is created with many of the colors associated with the various types of cancer.

Tickets for “Celebrating Life Through the Fabric of Hope” are $60 and $100 VIP and can be purchased at Remilda Rose Designs or Commonwealth Fabrics.

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.
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