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You shop, they will Benefit

Stephanie Sakr, 55, remembers feeling shock after her breast cancer diagnosis before the questions came for which of course no one had definitive answers to, before she came to the realization that she had no medical insurance and would have to pay her medical expenses out of pocket. This breast cancer fighter has been forced to rely on family, especially her children, as well as the goodwill of extended family, friends, and even strangers, to assist with her medical bills during her fight for her life. Upon completion of chemotherapy she expects to receive an update on her tumor’s shrinkage, followed by a mastectomy.

Then there’s Errin Storr, 52 – in her breast cancer fight she said she’s sometimes lost her pride and given into fear and anxiety, felt the cold grip of shock, the emptiness of confusion and the constant drain of sadness, but in all of that, she said she has not lost her will for a healthy and fruitful life. Like Sakr, she does not have medical insurance and can’t afford to pay for private treatments, but she’s thankful her needs were still met.

Marjorie Cox, another breast cancer fighter who when told of her diagnosis said she remembered feeling overwhelmed with feelings of disbelief and fear – the number one of which was dying and leaving her children. She also wondered whether she stood a chance, and how she could pay for the treatments. But the one thing she did know for certain, it was that she had to battle the disease for her children. She was also certain that she would rather live without breasts than to die because of them. Fighting breast cancer has crippled her financially, but she still has rent to pay and to take care of her children.

Sakr, Storr, and Cox, along with Themeia Sands, 37; Jody Knowles, 44; Samantha Rahming, 28, and Macdonna Johnson – are seven women that the new initiative “Dress for the Cause” set in motion by Mitzi Turnquest seeks to assist financially with funds raised from an October 27 sip, shop and cure event, a coming together of fashion boutiques and the beauty world to help seven ladies who range in age from 23 to 56 to fight cancer financially.

Bella Donna, Classy Loft, Velvet Hangar, Signature Styles, Stilettos Shoe Loft, Modern Styles, CJ Jermaine Photography, Captured Photography, Beauty with Nestase, Sarsha Lepeche, and Apryl Jasmine Design Studio have joined on for the inaugural event.

You shop, they will give.

All the participating boutiques and store owners are running a promotion on Saturday, October 27, with proceeds earmarked towards these seven ladies battling cancer.

Turnquest, the proprietor at the Signature Group of Companies which includes Signature Styles, Signature Loft, Signature W&B White & Black Studio, Signature Elegance and Endless Shoe Warehouse said her boutiques will offer exclusive deals, as well as a special collection that will be brought in just for the event, and put on sale at a lower rate to help drive sales, with all proceeds going towards the seven women who are battling cancer. She has also dedicated a portion of her boutiques’ sales for the month towards assisting the breast cancer fighters.

She hopes to raise at least $3,500 alone from the Signature Group of Companies; across all participating stores they hope to raise at least $10,000 collectively to share amongst the women. Each store also has a donation box in-store year round into which additional donations can be dropped earmarked to each breast cancer fighter, for anyone who wants to help even further. Only the cancer battle fighter has the key to their individual box.

“Cancer is not just a one-month thing, any extra donation helps the ladies with something additional to help her with her battle,” said Turnquest. Knowles’ box is at Signature Styles.

At Turnquest’s boutiques, she’s taken her fundraising efforts a step further, and said she would dedicate a portion of her sales for the month as well.

“These are the women who have helped make us great and have been investing in our business over the years, so it’s only fitting that we try to come up with something that can help them directly,” said Turnquest.

She said the idea was to give directly to the women and not an organization.

“We’re cutting out all the red tape and giving it directly to them,” she said.

The initiative jumpstarted by Turnquest which has morphed into a collective one by the participating businesses is a personal one – her bother Brenda Mott is a breast cancer survivor; her father Wellington Mott died from cancer; her sister Latoya Mott died from breast cancer; her aunt Mary Sweeting is a two-time breast cancer survivor; and another aunt Marilyn Armbrister died from breast cancer three weeks ago.

“I know what it is to be in a situation where you cannot help yourself. Knowing that you want to live, but you don’t have the means or finances to help yourself. It’s an expensive thing.”

Having seen the disease up close and personal, she ensures that she does her medical checks and balances.

“I have to,” she said.

Turnquest also worked with Knowles whose struggle she said was her inspiration for “Dress for the Cause”.

Three days before her birthday, Knowles received a call of her cancer diagnosis. In the fight to save her life Knowles endured the battery of treatments – first up was 16 rounds of chemotherapy, then a double mastectomy, followed by 25 rounds of radiation as well as a total hysterectomy.

“I’d been cut up, had parts of me removed, other parts cooked … both disease and treatment exacted a heavy mental, emotional and physical toll,” said Knowles. “This is not to mention the financial impact on my family. My treatment related expenses, combined with treatment for my son who is on the autism spectrum, put a huge financial strain on our already limited funds. It has been a huge battle just balancing the need for food, electricity, water and medical bills. Eventually, our family lost yet another valuable possession in this fight – our home.”

Through all of it, Knowles said she remained appreciative of the support of her family and the support of Turnquest who she said has been a godsend to her, and is now extending her support to others in similar situations. Today, Knowles said she is still going strong with a firm belief in the simple affirmation that has taken her through her battle from diagnosis to treatment – she shall live.

“I know [Jody’s] personal struggle – and then she always shared stories about these other women that she came in contact with and were going through similar situations, and I said we need to do something. We always say we support breast cancer, but how do we support it – just by saying it and putting up a couple of posters saying we support it? No! That’s not supporting it,” said Turnquest. “We need to do something to really support it, and the best way to do that is to give back to these women who are really fighting it. How can they fight cancer when they have such limited resources to do so? So that was the driving force behind it, and Jody was able to get with me and Princess Margaret Hospital [PMH].”

Turnquest said she has had to turn away requests from nurses who are still calling daily asking if they can add a breast cancer fighter to the list who also really needs assistance, but she said the funds they hope to raise will only stretch so far, and that they want to give everyone a decent amount. “The amount we aim to raise can only share so far,” she said.

Turnquest’s goal is for an expanded version of “Dress for the Cause” in 2019 with all business owners, including but not limited to clothing boutiques, hair salons, nail salons, makeup artists, fashion designers, and all things that complement beauty in one accord to effect change.

“It is my hope that ‘Dress for the Cause’ will be an annual event that blossoms and manifests as years go on, as cancer is a disease that has affected every household in some aspect or other. Our goal for the next year is for all the stores in The Bahamas to do some promotion where they can give back directly to these women.”

October globally is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Shavaughn Moss

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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