The annual Rock’n the Runway show in Grand Rapids is glitz and glam mixed with heart, soul and purpose.
Models strut designer looks alongside breast cancer survivors, who shine bright and triumphant during their spotlight turns. Any trepidation about taking on the catwalk is diminished by the fight they’ve already won against the disease and a desire to raise awareness about prevention.
We talked to survivor and Grand Rapids resident Mary Taylor, who will walk this year’s runway. We’re sharing her story in four parts, which mirror the show’s four thematic elements.
In September 2014, Taylor almost skipped her annual mammogram, but went at the urging of her husband. The dark marks it revealed were a complete surprise.
“I had no signs. I didn’t feel a lump or notice symptoms or anything,” she said.
Her doctor sent her for more testing.
“The word cancer – you don’t want to hear it,” Taylor said.
Looking back, the 65-year-old realized she had been more fatigued than normal, but chalked it up to normal aging. The Stage 1 diagnosis meant a promising outlook, but Taylor said she was still in denial.
She found some solace in the disease’s early detection, thanks to the “best husband in the world.”
Surgery removed the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation followed to ensure no trace was left behind.
Taylor said she lost her appetite, hair and dignity. She never lost her faith or family, however.
When the chemo made her too sick to pray, she was comforted knowing her church family was lifting her up. Her husband and three daughters, who made and proudly wore “Team Mary” shirts throughout the ordeal, helped her through every treatment decision and stepped in to make sure her usual household duties weren’t neglected.
“I knew that I was going to get through it,” she said.
“To me, every moment, every day, is special,” Taylor said.
As she celebrates two years being cancer-free, she counts spending time with her six grandchildren and enjoying the natural beauty of the great outdoors as two blessings she holds dear.
Although she never in her life expected to walk a runway, it’s just another way to grab life and live it fully.
“I had faith and belief that I would get through the hard times,” Taylor said. “I went through it and survived.”
Rock’n the Runway takes place this Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at 7 p.m., with pink carpet arrivals beginning at 6 p.m. at the William C. Abney Auditorium, 3075 30th. St. SW, Grandville. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor and will announce this year’s Grand Rapids Faith in Wellness winners during the show.
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Main image photo credit: Gabriel Saldana
Mary Taylor photo credit: ACTPhotoMedia