Joy, tears and style collide as cancer survivors hit runway

SEATTLE – “Every year, I put makeup on, and I’m like, ‘Why?’ ” Leslie Cohan said.

Honey, I’m right there with you.

The Gilda’s Club annual “Surviving with Style” Fashion Show & Luncheon is a celebration, to be sure, when people who have faced cancer – some more than once or even twice – get all dressed up and strut their stuff in a ballroom packed with family and friends.

Ah, but the stories KIRO 7 anchor Angela Russell told while they did it. It was a good thing Leslie’s dad, Don Cohan, had tissues at the ready. Because we were a mess.

There was Myrtle Royse, 97, diagnosed with ovarian cancer – and who insisted on a manicure and pedicure before her surgery.

Twenty-month-old Ally Rudolph toddled out with her father. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 10 weeks old. But there she was in a pink dress, clapping down the runway.

Lisa Hoover was diagnosed with breast cancer five days before her son and nephew celebrated their B’nai Mitzvah, and didn’t say a word.

Tami Elwin is a melanoma survivor who is now a counselor at Camp Goodtimes, a pediatric oncology camp.

Back when Matthew Randall was 3, he had kidney cancer but was still able to climb four mountains, thanks to a flag bearing his photo that was carried by climbers and guides.

Adopted sisters Stephanie Lavarello Richardson and Kimberly Lavarello both tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. They had to get a court order to find their birth mother, only to learn that she had died of breast cancer, as did their grandmother and great-grandmother.

Connor Dunham was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2; Charlotte Sheldon is a two-time cancer survivor headed to the south of France with her family this summer; Paul Hildebrandt is a pilot who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who is captain of the Alaska Airlines team for the “Big Climb” fundraiser at the Columbia Tower.

Karen Waalkes survived two battles with breast cancer; Ilyse Wagner, who also survived, is a facilitator for Check Your Boobies, a local cancer-education organization.

Hunter Schwab was about to enter kindergarten when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He’s 5 now – and a huge ham.

Kippen Westphal survived a brain tumor; Zac Graling was diagnosed with leukemia in high school but still managed to graduate with his class, who voted him “Most Inspirational.”

Marilyn Kossik went through eight surgeries after her ovarian-cancer diagnosis. She’s now in remission.

Michael Vinnick was diagnosed with prostate cancer less than a year ago and was walking the runway. Marsha Paolozzi survived leukemia; Hunter Graham Goodman was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 2012, and as of December, is cancer-free. Eloise Evans was a toddler when a cancerous tumor was found in her nasal cavity. She’s now a freshman at Gonzaga University.

Braydon Hutchison was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks before his 11th birthday. Doctors found a bone-marrow donor in the U.K., and he’s been cancer-free for two years.

Julie Landry Hernandez was diagnosed with a rare blood/bone cancer and hasn’t been cured but leans on her faith – and her love of Texas A&M football.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Randy Broad refocused on his family and wrote a book called “It’s an Extraordinary Life – Don’t Miss it.”

And Alex Hayes, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, said what almost all the models did in their remarks: “We are all so much stronger than we know we are.”

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