Warriors, conquerors & survivors
Two mother-daughter combinations in Patrice Campbell and Dr. Alia Campbell, as well as Jennimae Johnson and Zitalia Fox, will be among the 14 cancer survivors and fighters to be honored this year in Gillian Curry-Williams’ fashion for a cause event under her Remilda Rose Designs brand. The one man and 13 women have all battled or are still battling either colon cancer, breast cancer, or pancreatic cancer.
Douglas Hanna, Latia Smith, Lorenda Woodside, Nakara Miller, Patrice Ritchie, Samantha Rahming, Shantell Hutchinson, Sophia Rolle, Terell Cleare, and Veronica Jones round out the people to be honored when Remilda Rose Designs hosts its Spring/Summer 2020 Collection showing under the theme “Warriors, Conquerors, Survivors” at her fourth show to honor cancer survivors scheduled for November 10 at the Atlantis.
In choosing this year’s honorees, the initial whittling process began with 300 nominations, which Curry-Williams said they had to reduce to 100, then down to 50 and again to 15, two of which were male, but was reduced to one male and the final 14, as she said the second male finalist wasn’t prepared to share his story about what he went through and had overcome.
For the designer, she said it’s important to showcase the mother/daughter combos to show people the relational quality to the insidious disease and to show the support that families give to each other as she shared that in the combos; one of them is still taking chemotherapy treatment, two of them just had surgery and had their breasts removed, with one person going into surgery this week, because a lump had reappeared.
“These women and man are fighting,” said the designer. “They are true survivors [and a reflection of our theme] ‘Warriors, Survivors, Conquerors’ – and they truly are.”
Ritchie was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016 after several months of pain and unexplainable discomfort. She completed a single mastectomy in July of that year to address ductal and lobular cancer. A year later, she completed a second mastectomy and remains on oral medication to assist with the reduction of her cancer levels.
Hanna was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, with a tumor in his colon. Surgery removed a portion of the colon and the tumor, but he had to take six months of chemotherapy treatment.
Rahming, a breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed with stage three invasive ductal carcinoma; she took 18 rounds of chemotherapy that her body did not respond to. After her last chemotherapy cycle, she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy in January and is still fighting the battle because another lump returned two months after surgery.
Smith said it wasn’t easy learning of her stage two breast cancer diagnosis, learning she had to have a double mastectomy, and girding herself for the fight for herself and her children. She has completed six cycles of chemo and says she’s motivated to remain strong despite the side effects of the process. She is preparing to undergo surgery for a double mastectomy.
In 2017, a cancerous tumor was discovered in Rolle’s right breast, as well as on her ovaries. She has had a double mastectomy.
Fox was diagnosed with stage three aggressive breast cancer at age 22 in January 2015, followed by a double mastectomy in July 2015, and six weeks of radiation.
Miller was diagnosed in January 2019 with stage one breast cancer. She has had a lumpectomy and four chemotherapy sessions and has also taken the BRCA gene test. She tested positive for the triple negative BRCA 1 gene and underwent a double mastectomy in May. It was also suggested that she have a hysterectomy as another preventive measure.
Hutchinson, in 2015, had a biopsy; the results, when returned, were positive for infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Rather than have a mastectomy, she opted to have a lumpectomy which included removal of the lump, surrounding breast tissue and a few lymph nodes. Six weeks after surgery it was revealed that the cancer had spread to her bones, more specifically, her right shoulder was infected. Based on the results, her cancer staging diagnosis went from stage two to stage four; she was a metastatic breast cancer patient with a 20-percent survival rate in the first five years after diagnosis at age 34. In August 2006, Hutchinson completed her first battle with cancer, but in November of that year, she was advised that the disease was still “active” in her bones and there were areas of concern not only in her shoulder but also her spine. In January 2007, Hutchinson began a second round of chemotherapy. In 2014 during a routine gynecological exam, they could not locate her right ovary – there was a “mass” in place. Given her history, Hutchinson took action – she had a full hysterectomy; and in 2015, a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
Cleare was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in July 2012 and as the tumor had grown so large over the years, refusal of treatment was not an option. She had to have surgery, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
Campbell was diagnosed with malignant ductal carcinoma in December 2018 and says she fights for her son Logan, for the many women who are too tired to fight for themselves, and for her mother, Patrice, who is concurrently fighting cancer with her.
Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2017, the beginning of a fight that has taken her through eight hours of surgery, a month in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and through radiation and chemotherapy.
For Curry-Williams, the upcoming show is personal. Her late father, Donald Curry was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She took note of what he went through and how her mother, Letitia Curry – his main caregiver – dealt with him. Curry-Williams also took notice of how her father was at treatment sessions, which she would attend with him, which gave her the opportunity to take in how other people received treatment. What she witnessed made her wonder what she could do to assist as a designer. She, at first, came up with a fabric she dubbed the “Fabric of Hope” – a print made up of some of the colors associated with the various types of cancer. That was followed with the idea of staging a fashion show to honor individuals who were going through treatment or had battled cancer, during which Curry-Williams would debut designs in the “Hope Fabric” but at the same time, dress the cancer survivors/fighters in her original designs, giving them a turn in the spotlight on the runway.
“Dress them up and make them feel good … make them feel special,” said Curry-Williams. “And yes, you may not have any ovaries, you may not have a breast … you may not have breasts, because you may have taken both off, you may have had cancer in the lungs or the rectum, but the fact is you are still handsome, you’re still beautiful, you’re still worthy.”
Participating in the event, she said the honorees get to share their individual stories and what they went through, which she said allows others to see that cancer is survivable.
For Curry-Williams, the bottom line is she knows her father would be proud of what she’s doing, and the fact that she has continued with the event even though he’s passed.
Prior to his death, the designer said her father had expressed his pride in her thinking of the idea of a fashion show for a cause, and she was able to host her first show before he died, even though he was too sick to attend.
Each female being honored gets a dress designed by Curry-Williams; the male gets a suit.
The designer has already consulted with the honorees and taken their measurements and knows the colors they like. It’s up to her to design apparel that she thinks would look best on them, and says she is in the process of ordering their fabrics and getting their shoes and jewelry for the November show.
This year Curry-Williams will have 24 other models taking to the catwalk in designs made with the “Fabric of Hope” and the designer’s one hope is that people come out and support the event.
“Cancer is no respecter of anyone – whether you’re rich … poor – it really doesn’t make a difference. And cancer, I’m sure, has affected everyone – whether it’s your cousin, a friend or whoever, so come out and support these people. Support what we’re doing because proceeds this year go to support the Cancer Society and the Gennie Dean Caring and Sharing Cancer Support Group, so we’re giving back; so come help us support these people and cheer them on.”
Andrea Sweeting, Sister Sister (Breast) Cancer Support Group president serves as patron for this year’s show. Tickets for are $70 general admission, $120 VIP.