By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center is introducing a fundraiser celebrating patients and survivors.
Haute Pink is a fashion show designed to inspire those affected by cancer and raise awareness for Forge’s mission to build a community of survivors and volunteers to help patients navigate their breast cancer journey.
The event will take place Oct. 14 at WorkPlay, with 10 of Forge’s clients and volunteers walking the runway wearing customized fashions created by Birmingham designers.
One of those women will be Shannon Preston.
When Preston was diagnosed with breast cancer Sept. 1, 2020, it wasn’t completely unexpected.
“I had found a lump in my breast and had a mammogram and ultrasound that week, and none of the initial reports seemed good,” the former Vestavia Hills resident said.
She is now one of the many who realize that it is never a good sign when a technician tells you the doctor wants to speak to you about your results.
“I have always thought of myself as a pretty tough cookie, and breast cancer has tested my strength more than anything else, and to be honest, my emotional strength the most,” she said.
While she can see the finish line after healing from her surgeries, Preston said she can sense the lasting impact it will have on her life.
“There were (and still are) many evenings when the tears would come and the fear would overwhelm me, but (my husband) was always right there,” she said. “He has weathered this crazy storm with me, and I know I could not be where I am today without him.”
Preston married her husband, Steve, on Christmas Day 2019.
They moved to Fairhope in February of this year, leaving behind her work as CEO of the Alabama Association of Nonprofits and taking on the role of executive director of infirmary foundations at Infirmary Health.
Even before her cancer journey, Preston had a years-long relationship with Forge. During her time with the association, the organization was one of her clients and Forge Executive Director Lauren Roberts a friend.
“My job was to help them be the best they could be and be strategic thinkers,” she said. “Little did we know that I would soon be reaching out as a newly diagnosed woman that needed to talk. For that, I will always be thankful.”
Forging a Collaborative Approach
Formerly the Women’s Breast Health Fund, Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center was launched in 2016 as a collaborative pilot project with Ascension St. Vincent’s, UAB Hospital, Brookwood Baptist Medical Center and Grandview Medical Center. The goal was to meet the needs of patients, survivors and their loved ones by providing supportive services throughout the cancer journey.
The organization offers personalized survivorship plans and a mentor program, along with connections to resources such as health and wellness classes, professional counseling, support groups and transportation to medical appointments.
“So many people’s lives are touched and changed by breast cancer every day,” she said. “I am so thankful for all the women that have walked this journey before me and created organizations like Forge so we never have to walk alone.”
Preston will walk the runway Oct. 14 wearing fashions designed by Kenya B. The Birmingham native and graduate of the University of Alabama’s Apparel Design program has showcased her work in fashion shows throughout the South and, most recently, at the 2020 New York Fashion Week.
The show also will feature Forge volunteers, clients and advocates including Amy Ackley, dressed by Charlotte Rand; Carla Youngblood dressed by Ericka Murdock; Carolyn Rayfield, dressed by Garland Jackson; Dianne Riley, dressed by Nate Marquez; Kerry Schrader, wearing Cheri Fashion; Kristi Denny, dressed by Deloveis Jamison; Jamaica Harris Bowser, dressed by Megan Dean; mother-daughter team SaDawn and Ashley Smith, wearing Splashed by DKG; and Stephanie Adams, dressed by Julie Maeseele.
Supporters can donate to the cause in honor of one of this year’s model/designer teams or start their own fundraising team in honor of a friend or family member affected by breast cancer.
For more information, visit hautepink.swell.gives.