NEWBURYPORT — Breast cancer survivors and supporters strutted the pink carpet Thursday afternoon in the first-ever Couture for a Cure fashion show held in honor of the five-year anniversary of the Gerrish Breast Care Center at Anna Jaques Hospital.
“Today, we’re celebrating five years of wonderful service at the Gerrish Breast Care Center and we’re celebrating some beautiful women,” said registered nurse Kathy Porter.
Porter, who works at the center, walked the runway with Dr. Peter Hartmann and one of the hospital’s therapy dogs, Lucy.
The show was sponsored by the hospital and the Institution for Savings. Mary Anne Clancy, vice president of communications at Institution for Savings, said the bank has been a longtime supporter of Anna Jaques.
The Institution for Savings donated money for the new single-patient ward several years ago and also gave money to purchase a 3-D mammography machine vital in detecting early signs of breast cancer, she said.
North of Boston Media Group Regional Publisher Karen Andreas served as master of ceremonies for the event, which opened up with a “Look Good Feel Good Marketplace.”
Local boutiques, salons and shops displayed their products and services, offering samples, merchandise and discount coupons. Interlocks Salon and Spa donated its hair and makeup team to prepare the models for the show.
The latest fall styles from local shops, including J. McLaughlin, The Elephant’s Trunk, Bobbles & Lace, Meraki, Dani Kaye, Smitten and Farley’s of Newburyport, were featured on the runway, which was taken over by breast cancer survivors, current patients and community supporters.
Models included Kathy Berman, a breast cancer survivor from Newburyport; Jeanne Carter, a leukemia survivor and the co-founder of Fuel Training Studio in Newburyport; and Dana Marshall, a morning show host at 92.9 The River and a breast cancer survivor.
Christine Turner, another featured model, began her breast cancer journey two years ago with a routine mammogram that came back positive It was followed by nine months of treatment, a few surgeries, four rounds of chemotherapy and more than six week of radiation.
Turner was treated at Anna Jaques and worked in nursing education at the hospital. Mary Rocco, another survivor model, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 during a routine mammogram.
Newburyport School Resource Officer Megan Tierney, another survivor model, detected a small lump in her left breast after her blind puppy, Dude, jumped on her chest. Soon after, she and her husband were speaking with their doctor, hoping to have a child. After mentioning the small lump that had not gone away, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer at the age of 33 in February, Tierney said.
“That’s just life, it’s so short, and I think that’s the other thing that I’ve figured out,” Tierney said. “Just being able to put my hands up over my head, because for a long time, I couldn’t even do that. There was one time where I couldn’t get off the couch to feed Dude and I was sobbing, crying, calling my mom saying, ‘I’m too tired to get up.’ You don’t realize how important your health is.”
As a young woman, Tierney said she never expected to be facing a diagnosis of this measure, but considers herself lucky.
“There’s a lot of perspective that’s come from all of this,” she said.
“Material things just don’t matter. We focus so much on it and it’s more like time and being with your family,” said Tierney, who walked the pink carpet alongside her boss, Marshal Mark Murray, in a reversible leopard print vest.
Julie Bokat, co-owner of Fuel Training Studio and Fuel Studio instructors Julie Bokat, Sarah Brown, Rachel Carter, Gwen Dumont, Autumn Notargiacomo, Jessie Reardon and Alli Sherman, were “rockstar” community models.
Other community models included Caroline Connolly of NBC 10 Boston; Lois Honegger, executive aide to Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday; Sonya Vartabedian of North of Boston Media Group and Phoebe Lonborg-Lewis of GateHouse Auto.
Hartmann, leader of the Gerrish Breast Care Center, noted the hospital has continued to grow and improve the quality and breadth of breast care services in the community.
“We have greatly expanded the range of services available to women for screening, diagnosis and treatment,” Hartmann said. “Over the five years, this has included 3-D mammography throughout the entire Anna Jaques system, minimally invasive biopsy procedures, and genetic testing services along with counseling along with our colleagues at Beth Israel.”
The hospital, Hartmann said, is continuing to expand these services and add to the emotional, social and psychological impact of treatment for patients and families, noting that breast cancer doesn’t affect just one person.
Jeannette Cattan, a survivor model diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at the age of 38, started a wig bank at Anna Jaques Cancer Center to help patients cope with appearance-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Cattan, a hairdresser for 20 years, said losing her own hair during cancer treatment affected not only her physical appearance, but also her morale and sense of identity. She hopes her “Look Good, Feel Better” program at the hospital will bring relief to women undergoing care.
Mary Williamson, vice president of development at Anna Jaques, said the proceeds will benefit the breast cancer center and its programs, specifically The Comfort Fund, which provides assistance to breast cancer patients undergoing treatment.
The fund supports patients in various ways, including providing transportation to treatment, having groceries delivered, having laundry done, or supplying a special item during treatment, she said.
“In the month of October, we see a lot of pink and that means breast health, but breast health needs to be 12 months of the year, not just one,” Porter said. “Early detection saves lives.”
Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.