Fashion and Breast Cancer Awareness Merge at Lexington Luncheon

Eight years ago, breast cancer first significantly touched the life of Candy Sansbury and her sister Cindy Chambers.

“Our mother was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time as one of our employees and one of our best friends,” Sansbury remembers.  “We brainstormed one evening at Travinia where it all started, with Anderson, who at the time was not my brother-in-law—he was just the general manager, and my sister and I all sat up here and thought, what can we do to bring the community together to raise awareness and raise some money for some of the local breast cancer charities.

A fashion veteran of Lexington, South Carolina and current manager of Cho Salon and Boutique, Sansbury took her knowledge of what she knows to co-create the unique event.

“We thought this is a great venue. Women prefer luncheons. I feel like it’s more of a ladies-type thing, and we’ve introduced more men over the years, but in the beginning it was mostly ladies, and we just made it a fashion show. Each year, we have an honorary speaker who represents a different charity for breast cancer, our local charities.” Sansbury reflects.

From there, Fashion for a Cure was created. The events features lunch, breast cancer awareness-themed pink cocktails, a silent auction, and of course a fashion show—where the models are breast cancer survivors.

GG Howard, a close friend of Candy Sansbury and Cindy Nelson, was a model at the event, which was held Monday, Oct. 24, at Travinia in Lexington.

“All of the models today are survivors, cancer survivors, and I think maybe the difference was ten years—and then somebody had just had surgery—so some fairly new people who have just been diagnosed and had surgery.” Howard states. “We get together, we talk about what we’ve been through, we show each other our scars, and it’s a communal time for us, because you may not have a best friend who has gone through breast cancer, but it’s nice to meet up with somebody who has, and you can compare notes with them, and you can support the newer ones.”

Howard reflects on how the rather unconventional opportunity for cancer survivors is an empowering experience.

“When you have breast cancer and your body is vulnerable, I think it’s very important to then kind of celebrate the moment,” she says. “Someone’s doing your hair and someone’s doing your makeup, you’re way more glamorous than you ever are, and you’re wearing clothes you probably wouldn’t otherwise wear, and it just makes you feel good. I think that’s part of it. When you’ve been defeated or not defeated but deflected somewhat by cancer, it’s good to go out there with a positive attitude.

Fashion for a Cure’s Honorary Speaker this year was Beth McCamey Harris, a founding member of the Palmetto Pals, Columbia’s chapter of the Young Survival Coalition.

“I’ve always heard about this event, and I’ve always been drawn to it, I’ve always wanted to come. But I’m always working on a Monday. For some reason, this year, I had already scheduled the time off.” McCamey Harris says. “I wanted to be a part of this, whether I was a patron...little did I know I would meet Cindy, and now I got to be the guest speaker. So I was very honored that it was the eighth year here for Fashion for a Cure, and it’s my eighth year being a survivor. So I feel like I was here for a reason, and little did I know, Candy and Cindy did say that they were going to donate a portion of the proceeds to YSC, so I was very honored to be here today.”

McCamey Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, and after undergoing chemo and treatment she found she wanted to find a useful way to contribute her time, which she now considered even more valuable. Through the Nurse Navigators at the Palmetto Health Foundation, she and four other young, local survivors opened the Columbia chapter of the Youth Survival Coalition. Although they help young survivors with cancer-related issues, such as fertility, the group serves really to help survivors of any cancer know they are not alone in their fight.

“Through YSC, what we try to do is help people through cancer. It’s not just breast cancer. It’s any cancer. We want to help you. And our local organization will do that.” McCamey Harris says. “We provide resources, people to talk to face-to-face, to give you the correct information, to give you hope and empowerment, to get through what you’re about to face. If you connect with the right people with something similar that you’re going through and you can relate to them, because through cancer, your best friend might not be there, your mom may not understand what you’re about to go through, but if there’s another person who has gone down that path, you’re about to face, you guys can relate with each other and it’s kind of like you become cancer buddies or ‘breast friends’ is what we say instead of best friends, it’s breast friends.”

While the event is a fun afternoon out for those who attend, the turnout and participation serve as a powerful physical representation of the community that stands behind local survivors.

“I like to encourage people that no matter what type of cancer you may have or no matter what your diagnosis is, nobody can put a timestamp on your life. Through hope, love and faith, anything is possible.” McCamey Harris encourages. “With your will to live and your positive attitude, things can change. You can live a long time through cancer. Thinking more on the positive than the negative about what you’re about to face, you can prolong your life.  And if you have more time with your family, time is everything. No matter what stage you are, live for today. Don’t let cancer own you. You own your cancer; you live through it. You’re not alone. And we can help you through this.”

Watching the smiling faces and models walk amongst their friends and family, one walks away from the event feeling hope and encouragement. 

“These women inspire us. They all inspire us.” Sansbury notes. “It makes you just think that they’re all so positive. It’s nothing but positive energy when you get all these girls together. It makes you just feel like you can conquer anything and you know, you can make it through anything. When you think life is at your worst. It may not just be breast cancer, it can be anything. Always have that silver lining and look ahead and make the most of what you have.”