Alberni breast cancer survivors get their chance to shine

Highlighting Port Alberni’s breast cancer survivors is the focus for the B.C. Cancer Society’s upcoming Daffodil Luncheon and Fashion Show.

Sisters Darlene Tuinstra and Lorna Hawthorne hold up daffodil pins to symbolize the fight against breast cancer. Both sisters are cancer survivors and will be featured in a fundraising luncheon and fashion show.

Highlighting Port Alberni’s breast cancer survivors as well as highlighting local designers is the focus for the B.C. Cancer Society’s upcoming Daffodil Luncheon and Fashion Show.

“Our ladies that are modelling are all cancer survivors. They’re not just survivors—they’re thrivers,” said Olga Tardif.

“We’ve approached all of the ladies’ wear stores in town.”

A model is assigned to each clothing store and will walk in the fashion show at the AV United Church on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m. Tickets go for $20 at ladies’ wear stores and Jim’s Clothes Closet.

The money goes to funding breast cancer research.

“This is the 18th year.”

This year, the fashion show will also feature a male model to raise awareness of the fact that men are not immune from breast cancer.

“Males can get breast cancer,” said Darlene Tuinstra.

“It’s all about awareness.”

Darlene and her sister Lorna Hawthorne are passionate about the cause.

“I got involved with the Cancer Society after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Tuinstra.

“When I was recovering [nine years ago] Gerry Fagan phone me and asked if I would do a speech on how breast cancer was for me and my journey.”

She’s been involved ever since.

“It’s giving back and working with people who have also journeyed with cancer. There’s a togetherness and we’re all in this battle together,” said Tuinstra.

Hawthorne got involved in a similar way. Diagnosed in November 2011, she knew that her sister was involved in the organization.

“I was diagnosed two-and-a-half weeks prior to selling my business so it was not on my radar at all. I was looking forward to retirement and all of a sudden there was this huge detour,” said Hawthorne. A year-and-a-half of treatment followed.

“My sister was beside me all the way and of course she was the first person my husband and I went to.”

That empathetic support helped immeasurably.

“You’re in such despair and fearful.”

After Hawthorne got through treatment, Tuinstra asked if she would consider being a part of the fashion show.

“It’s a chance for me to be out there and let people know that I am a survivor,” said Hawthorne.

“After all that you’ve been through in your journey, you can do this. It’s just a fashion show.”

And Hawthorne loved the experience.

It’s also given her the opportunity to support others going through similar painful journeys.

“After the fashion show Darlene came up to me and said ‘I want you to meet somebody,’” said Hawthorne.

“Darlene introduced me to this young woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and she was the same age as my youngest daughter.”

That young woman resonated with Hawthorne.

“She had a four-year-old son and I could feel her despair and fear. Through that fashion show it brought me together with this young woman and I supported her and followed her through her treatment,” she said.

“So for me it was giving back. It was a really positive experience both ways.”

Tuinstra agreed.

“When you’re first diagnosed, you feel like you have the rug pulled out from under you,” she said.

“And after you’ve cried and feel that fear for a while you realized that the only way you’re going to survive this thing is to fight.”

EDITED: The luncheon starts at 12 p.m.

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