Cathy Howard exuded a kind of energy Saturday that did not scream cancer survivor — or maybe it did.
Wearing a black and pink T-shirt with the words “Ready for Battle” across the front, the 58-year-old mother of two and grandmother of six put her arms in the air and waved a pink scarf over her head as she walked through the sanctuary of Second Baptist Church in Medina. Her pink tulle skirt swayed as she sashayed.
A pink wig finished off the look.
It was the last walk for Howard during the fashion show portion of the second annual Power of Pink Luncheon at the Bronson Street church. A crowd of women clapped and cheered as Howard, a breast cancer survivor, took each step.
The Medina woman said her personality, on full display during the prevention and education event, never changed after her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.
“When I went through it, I went through it like I am today,” she said after her runway show. “You only live once, so no matter what I was going to keep living.”
When asked to put a number of years to her time as a survivor, Howard could only say about five.
“I am pretty sure it’s five years. I mean, do people really keep track of stuff like that?” she said. “I guess you can say its five years this month. But I’m not keeping track. I’m just walking the walk.”
Minister Tracey Ruffin, wife of the Rev. Arthur A. Ruffin Sr., the church’s pastor, spoke to the purpose of the luncheon hosted by the R.E.A.L. Women’s Ministry.
“October has been deemed breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when cancer cells develop in the breast tissue. These damaged cells can spread and invade other areas,” she said. “But with early detection and treatment, it can be survived. … So our central focus today is to educate with pamphlets and booklets, to empower by hearing and seeing powerful testimony and to encourage women. We are stronger together.”
According to cancer.org, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12 percent. That means women have a 1 in
8 chance of developing the disease.
Four survivors walked in the fashion show including Howard, Louise McNorris, Linda Ross and Mary Hawk.
“People think we are sisters, but we’re not,” Hawk said of the friendship she developed with Ross. “We just had the same journey at the same time. We are bosom buddies, bosom sisters.”
The Rev. Arlibera “Libby” Swoope from Covenant Now Ministries in Cleveland is also a breast cancer survivor. She shared her story through a powerful praise dance.
Robin Swoboda, who lives in Medina but is best known for her multiple stints in television broadcast news in the Cleveland market, served as the keynote speaker, delivering her own story of survival. Peppered with comical stories from her life of when her body betrayed her — like the time she fell in a department store while pregnant, stepped off a stage into an orchestra pit and wet her pants and finally when she learned in 2017 that she had Stage 1 breast cancer — Swoboda’s message demonstrated how a woman’s best chance after diagnosis is to pick herself up and keep fighting.
“Be your own advocate,” she said, reminding women to listen to their bodies and perform the monthly self-examination. “Don’t trust a mammogram to save your life. You have to do it.”
Swoboda said she doesn’t buy the prosperity gospel theology, a belief that God rewards increases in faith with wealth and health. Instead, the born-again Christian told the audience to remember that life is good, but life also is hard.
“One day you’re healthy, the next day you have breast cancer,” she said.