A Massachusetts woman with terminal cancer made her modeling debut recently during New York Fashion Week.
Barbara Bigelow, 61, of Wareham, who has metastatic breast cancer, proudly walked down the runway in a bold, two-piece AnaOno lingerie set. AnnaOno is a designer who specializes in lingerie and swimwear for those affected by breast cancer.
Bigelow, a wife and mother of two, took part in the show alongside dozens of other breast cancer patient models as part of the powerful #ThisIsMBC Elements campaign which brought to life the reality of living with the terminal diagnosis of MBC.
The Elements project aims to encourage others living with MBC, as well as their friends and loved ones, to share their individual experiences through creative expression; to help build and maintain relationships that provide support, strength, and encouragement; and change misconceptions about the disease.
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The campaign lives on MBCInfoCenter.com. Each month, a new portrait and theme will be unveiled and added to the Elements gallery on the website to inspire patients on their journey. Those living with MBC and those who support them can get involved by sharing a video about their personal story using #ThisIsMBC.
The fashion show raised money for METAvivor, an organization with a primary focus of funding critical research that will lead to advances in treatment options, quality of life and survival for patients diagnosed with MBC. METAvivor also raises awareness of MBC, provides support for people living with this disease, and offers opportunities for others to help make a difference for the metastatic community.
METAvivor has gained a rapidly growing following within the breast cancer community and has become a leader in its field.
During the fashion show, Bigelow got to dress up in a black lingerie set with fishnet stockings, and black leather boots. She sported a robe with words like “resilient” and “queen” on it.
“I didn’t feel nervous at all. It was empowering, and so much fun. We laughed a lot,” said Bigelow.
Bigelow was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2002. She was in remission for 13 years until 2015 when serious back pain sent her back to the hospital. Bigelow tried a clinical trial not yet approved for breast cancer as well.
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“Three months into that I had a horrible cascading event where I had inflammatory syndrome and put into a coma hospitalized for two months—multi-organ failure put on dialysis and we all thought I was totally not going to make it,” said Bigelow.
Luckily, a high dose of steroids has turned it all around for now. It prompted her to look for meaning, and use her health to advocate for others.
“The days are numbered so you think about your life more in real time. Like I don’t have the rest of my life, I only have today,” said Bigelow.
The organization that her heart is most passionate about is METAvivor. She loves it mostly because it’s patient-driven, and where 100 percent of the funding goes to cancer research.
“The first thing my oldest daughter said to me when I walked off stage was, 'I have never been prouder of you mom.' And that made it all worthwhile for me,” said Bigelow.
Bigelow said a lot of people don’t even understand what “metastatic” means. She wants to raise more awareness.
“Men and women die every day in the United States of metastatic breast cancer and that’s the equivalent of a Boeing 757 crashing every single day in the United States. Why aren’t people outraged about that? That number hasn’t really changed in 40 years since they started studying it,” said Bigelow.
It’s a fatal future that Barbara and her family have had to face.
“My kids have been living with cancer since they were 11 and 12 years old. It’s wreaked havoc on my family. My husband has to sit there and watch me go through all of this stuff,” said Bigelow.
It’s also a future that she refuses to accept for her daughters.
“I am really committed to funding research because I don’t think it will save me, but I am praying that whatever comes in the next 10 years might help them,” said Bigelow.