Tea, Cake and Catwalk

On 11th March 2017, I was honoured to take part in the Tea with Ovacome fashion show alongside nine other ladies who have had, or are living with, ovarian cancer. Tea with Ovacome is an annual afternoon tea and fashion show founded by Adele Sewell, who herself is an ovarian cancer survivor. The main of aim of the day is to raise much needed awareness about ovarian cancer, whilst also being an opportunity to share experiences and celebrate the lives of those who have been affected by the disease.The event has continued to grow over the seven years that it has been running; this year tickets sold out in under 12 hours!
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I had been unable to attend the pre-event photo shoot a few months prior to the event, so the first time I met Adele, the event team, and the models, was on the morning of the show. Initially, the idea of taking part in a fashion show and walking up and down a catwalk in a room of about 200 people after having gone through cancer treatment felt scary and exposing. But this could not be further from the reality. From the moment I arrived, I instantly felt at ease and knew that the day would be unforgettable. As I started to meet and talk with the other models, I was soon aware of the courage, strength and determination that surrounded me. I was able to speak with women who have also had BRCA related ovarian cancer and to hear about their experiences of living with the genetic mutation.

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The photos in the slideshow above are by Kate Pigden 

We started the day by rehearsing our catwalk routines, which was so helpful with managing my anxiety about walking up and down a catwalk in heels; those who know me know that co-ordination is not always my strong point! We then had afternoon tea together before heading back to the rooms to have our hair, make up and nails done. By the time 5pm came, we were ready to take to the catwalk. My heart was popping out my chest as I stood there waiting to go out for the first time. However, when the time came to step out, the bright lights, applause and smiling faces turned my nerves into pure excitement and confidence. My family was there for the event and walking out and seeing them at the ‘Finding Cyril’ table was such a wonderful feeling!

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The day was filled with so many emotions: excitement and laughter, but also sadness and reflection. We were able to remember and celebrate the lives of women who have been part of the Tea with Ovacome community but have since passed. It was a poignant reminder of the reason we were all there; to raise awareness, knowledge and understanding about the disease, as well as provide support for women and their loved ones. Ovarian cancer continues to be one of the cancers which is all too often diagnosed in the late stages because the symptoms can be missed or confused with bowel symptoms. Having events such as Tea with Ovacome help to raise awareness about the disease and symptoms. I don’t imagine that there was one person who left the tea without thinking about it, and hopefully all will go on to have conversations with others about it. At the end of the day, the more these conversations are had, the more that women can know what to look out for.

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The photos in the slideshow above were taken by Ming Yeung, Getty Images 

Adele and the Tea with Ovacome team are continuing to build on their success with Tea with Ovacome.  They have organised the “Touch of Teal” Glitter Gala on 9th September 2017. This is the first ever dinner dance that they have put on and all proceeds will be donated equally to the following charities: Ovacome, Ovarian Cancer Action, Penny Brohn UK, The Royal Marsden Hospital and Target Ovarian Cancer. Once again women who have had or have ovarian cancer will model and speak at the event. You can buy tickets for the gala by clicking on the link below. If you would like to apply to model or be a speaker, or know somebody who might be interested in this unique opportunity, please get in touch with Adele by emailing: info@teamwithovacome.org.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-touch-of-teal-glitter-gala-tickets-32678837282?aff=es2

Ovarian cancer has meant that certain aspects of my life have changed significantly. One of the main ones being my body. I look different; I have a scar down my tummy (which I’m proud of), I’ve put on weight (which I’m pleased about) and I’m now menopausal which brings me a whole host of physical symptoms on a daily basis. Going though cancer, and especially the side effects of chemotherapy and surgery, makes you feel different about your body. At times it felt like my body was not mine and was there only to fight cancer. I remember also feeling anger towards my body after I was diagnosed. I was angry at it for letting ‘Cyril’ in, but over time I started to realise that my body actually did a good thing letting me know ‘Cyril’ was there and getting me to the point I am at now. Being part of this whole experience: going shopping with the team to find outfits, having hair and make-up done and walking down the catwalk alongside the other women gave me back some self-confidence that I had lost on this journey. It allowed me to see my body as my own and not just as a thing to fight cancer with, and to celebrate how far it and I have come.

 

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The final photo in this slideshow was taken by Ming Yeung, Getty Images 

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