Alive Again

AliveAgainphotoIn this powerful blog, former CYWH peer leader Chaseedaw Giles writes about how her experience as a childhood cancer survivor inspired her to organize an amazing fashion show. Alive Again took place on June 27th in Washington DC.

While backstage at a DC Fashion Week runway show in 2013, I overheard a fellow model talking about how her hair was just starting to grow back. She was a cancer survivor, but you wouldn’t know unless she told you. I am a survivor of childhood cancer and meeting another young, vibrant survivor pursuing her passions inspired me to make an impact. This summer, after much planning, fundraising and collaboration within the survivor community, the Alive Again fashion show was born. All models were survivors who came together to raise money for a great cause, preventing cancer with the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

The making of the show was an incredible journey. I wanted to help other survivors remember who they were before cancer and see how beautiful they are. Along the way they helped me get through my own health issues. Aside from cancer I had severe osteoarthritis in my right hip. In February, we were towards the end of our fundraising efforts when two difficult things occurred on the same day. I was scheduled to have a total hip replacement and two hours before heading into surgery, I found out my friend, and a model for the show passed away in his fight with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Before I could even begin to grieve I was hooked up to IVs. Somehow in the midst of all of that, we raised the money, and my surgery was successful. More models became too ill to walk, but others gladly joined in their honor. We were able to lift each other up each time one of us was down.

17 cancer survivors and fighters, 10 designers, 3 makeup artists, a hairstylist, photographers, videographers and sound techs all came together. We empowered each other to celebrate life and raised almost $2,000 for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Following the event, some of the models expressed their thoughts.

“In truth, at times the emotion of it all was so overwhelming. To be in a dressing room where folks were not afraid of their scars… I hope you realize the enormity of what you did. You made people who sometimes feel broken feel empowered… You gave us a place to mourn those who we lost through joy instead of tears. I am so proud to have been part of this.” – Megan Stull

“I have always wanted to do something like this to build my inner self. You know as a survivor you feel really good about yourself but sometimes that flash hits your mind and you get into your feelings about the way you look. Well, I’ve had that problem since I’ve been stuck in the wigs but since joining this I am feeling oh so good about my inner self. Thank you for providing the platform.” Crystal Williams

“The Alive Again Fashion Show helped me feel more beautiful than I believed possible post cancer.” Jenn McRobbie

I set out to create an event for survivors to feel like themselves again while raising money to help ensure that more people don’t hear that awful phrase we did, “you have cancer.” Anyone at the show clearly understands now that life goes on post diagnosis. I encourage anyone out their thinking of putting on an event to go for it- you can help those fighting cancer while raising money to help end this horrible disease.