Cancer survivors step out in fund-raiser | NevadaAppeal.com

Cancer survivors step out in fund-raiser

PETER THOMPSON

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Maya Claiborne, 6, laughs with her grandmother Gaynel Henstad at the Harvesting Hope fashion show at the Carson Nugget on Sunday. Maya had kidney cancer when she was 19 months old, and her grandmother is a colon cancer survivor. Maya's great aunt Ricka Benum also beat the disease.

Whether gliding gracefully like a float in a parade or strutting unhinged with hips swerving, moving down the catwalk is all about attitude.

Attitude?

One would be hard pressed, be it New York, London, Paris or Milan, to find 24 models with as much raw attitude, who look as good on the outside as they feel on the inside, as were working the runway Sunday afternoon at Carson-Tahoe Hospital Foundation’s fourth annual fashion show fund-raiser, “Harvesting Hope.”

Working for two months with fashion coordinator Beverly Willard, the two dozen models, some still having to fit in their practice schedules between chemotherapy sessions, pulled off a triumphant show, despite a few pre-show nerves.

But something about beating cancer seems to diminish and disempower the little things like stage fright. Besides, this was a celebration.

Just ask Clydie Costa, decked out in Harley-Davidson gear, dancing out loud to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

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“The show salutes cancer survivorship, and all models have had cancer and beaten it,” said Pam Graber, executive director for the foundation.

“This is what survivorship is all about,” spoke master of ceremonies Cathy Dinauer, RN, MSN, and chief nursing officer. “Each model has a special story of hope.”

Among the models, 6-year-old Maya Claiborne; her grandmother, Gaynel Hemstad; and great-aunt Ricka Benum – all have beaten the disease.

“Our community is going to be so lucky,” said Graber, speaking of the new treatment center on Highway 395 which should be completely open by early 2006.

“This cancer center is going to be as good as it gets. Everything will be state-of-the-art in one convenient location with close parking – radiation oncology, medical oncology, a lab pharmacy, conference center, and the best part of all: our cancer resource center,” Graber continued.

That also means no “going over the mountains” for specialized treatment, a dangerous proposition in the snowy winter.

“It used to be that when you were diagnosed with cancer, you went home and either had a drink or cried,” said Graber. “Now there will be a place to go to get answers, get a second opinion, one-on-one counseling or support groups, brochures, a lending library, wigs, hats, scarves,” she says. “The support will be there to hold you up.”

Patient comfort will also be greatly improved.

“Every chemotherapy patient will have a good view, comfortable chairs for the awful process, TV screens if patients want to watch a DVD, even a terrace so patients can have their treatment outdoors in the summer.”

In the final segment of the fashion show, each model got to pick one (or sometimes four) caregivers, people who have made a difference and been there to help them through, to walk with them on stage.

As the survivors walked down the runway, they handed their caregiver a single, long-stemmed rose, while messages of what that person meant to the survivor were read aloud.

Lew Main, a 5-year-survivor of prostate cancer, walked down the runway, kissed his wife, and handed her a pink rose.

It seems living a long, healthy, happy life will never go out of style.

Contact reporter Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.