Of the approximately 23,400 women diagnosed with breast cancer this year, about 5,100 will succumb to the disease. About 14 women will die of breast cancer daily and one in nine is expected to develop the most common cancer among women during their lifetime.
Life changed drastically for Leila Springer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. Though floored, the mother of two lifted herself off the canvas and has become an outspoken advocate for women battling the disease.
Recognizing that breast cancer is the leading cause of death among middle-aged women, she has developed a passion for helping those afflicted with the disease in Canada’s Black community cope with distress and the crises associated with cancer.
Springer, who co-founded the Olive Branch of Hope to inspire and motivate cancer patients, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural LuvLi Ladies show organized to provide growth through fashion, image, health and wellness and the sharing of personal experiences.
Part of the proceeds from the event was donated to the Olive Branch of Hope.
“I know that in our community, not many of us respond when we hear the words breast cancer,” said Springer who is also the president of the World Breast Cancer Foundation. “I am here to tell you that breast cancer knows no boundaries, race, colour or creed.
“For women, a diagnosis of breast cancer is shocking and usually escalates into a roller coaster-type of experience which is hard to explain to anyone who has not been through it. Added to that is a fear and threat of the out-of-pocket expense for the treatment and that becomes a burden to many women today.”
Springer praised the organizers of the event which placed the spotlight on breast cancer.
“This is a wonderful occasion,” she said. “The title ‘LuvLi Ladies’ is so fitting. Having said that, there are many ladies who don’t feel lovely because they lost one breast or like me part of a breast or perhaps both breasts. They need to be encouraged to rise above their pain.
“They need you to let them know they are still beautiful and they need you to remind them that they can still contribute to their community. They need you to walk with them on their journey that lasts a lifetime and they need you to remember that cancer can be beaten.”
Jamaican-born Canadian fashion model and runway coach Stacey McKenzie, Black Business and Professional Association president Pauline Christian, Harry Jerome Awards chair Karlyn Percil, Canadian Black Caucus founder Gwyn Chapman, Dr. Melanie Hall and Women’s Enterprise Canada founder Lisa Small also made inspiring presentations at the event that featured a fashion show with models Candice Bromfield, Gabriella Chambers, Jessie Chau, Michelle Lindo, Danielle Williams, Renee Thompson, Sharmaine Radcliffe and Vanessa Camara.
The event organizers also presented a scholarship to 19-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School graduate, Doyin Onile.