IT TAKES courage to step out onto a catwalk in front of 450 people, particularly if you’ve never done it before.
But the 36 women and two men who appeared in this year’s Breast Cancer Fashion Show in Huddersfield are not short of courage.
In the past few years, each and every one of them has faced the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer and survived gruelling treatment regimes. And on Monday evening, at the Cedar Court Hotel, Ainley Top, they celebrated life by stepping confidently out into the spotlight in a professionally-staged show.
Some were recently-recovered and a handful were still undergoing treatment, but there was a smile on every face.
“It’s wonderful for us to see everyone looking so happy and well,’’ said Macmillan breast care nurse Veronica Allinson, one of the organisers of the annual fashion show.
“The show is really popular with the patients and many of them make friends at the rehearsals. “They have all shared a common experience,’’ she added.
The aim of the show is to boost the morale of patients and help to restore their confidence after treatment and surgery.
A team of professional hair stylists from Rubens and make-up artists from Make-Up On Demand spent the afternoon preparing the models for the catwalk.
When they walked out in front of family and friends the models were wearing the latest fashions, including bridal gowns and lingerie, from 13 Huddersfield and Calderdale shops.
Although breast cancer is a predominantly female disease, it does affect a small number of men and this year’s show, the fifth, featured two male patients from Calderdale, who modelled Vivienne Westwood outfits from the private collection of celebrity florist Carl Wilde.
The Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust sees around 360 new breast cancer patients each year - all cared for by Veronica, her four breast care nurse colleagues and other staff at the Huddersfield and Calderdale Breast Cancer Unit.
For both staff and patients the annual show is an emotional experience, as Veronica’s husband Stephen, who directs the show, put it: “There’s never a dry eye in the house. It’s a real Kleenex moment at the end when everyone appears in the finale.’’
Whole families turn out to support models and the breast care nurses enlist their own families to help backstage and on stage. The two youngest models on the catwalk were Libbie Booker, six, and Faye Graham, five, daughters of breast care nurses Susan Booker and Joyce Graham, while the patients strutting their stuff ranged in age from 34 to 79.
I joined the models for their special day and shared in the excitement.
And while there were some backstage nerves, there was mostly camaraderie and a real sense of enjoyment. “It just makes you feel fantastic,’’ said one former patient. And she was not alone in feeling that way.
In her pre-show pep talk, show producer Bernadette Gledhill, impressed upon us that it was important to hold up our heads, walk proud and, above all, “have fun’’.
Throughout the preparations for the show I talked to a number of patients and former patients.
These are just some of their stories.