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Stacy London pitches in against cancer

Image: Stacy London with Tamara Ehlin
Stacy London with Tamara Ehlin, director of corporate development, at the American Cancer Society Brooklyn Regional Office First Annual Pink & Black Tie Gala at Steiner Studios on May 7.Giacinta Pace
/ Source: NBC News

Question: In your own words, describe the American Cancer Society and what this organization means to you.

London: I am fortunate enough to have some sort of weird platform. I guess anybody who gets to be on television or works in the media automatically can get people to sort of at least pay a little bit of attention when they have something to say. Frankly, I can’t think of a better cause than the American Cancer Society.

This country… internationally… the world… we are plagued by cancer and we are plagued by people getting sick, and I don’t know anybody it hasn’t affected personally or professionally, whether it’s friends, relatives, our own selves. It’s a devastating disease, and as much money as we put into research, as much money as we put into early detection, as much money as we put into trying to cure this disease, we’re not there yet. If we’re not there, then we’ve gotta find a way to get there. The American Cancer Society stands for, as they say, they sorta stand for more birthdays, and I truly believe in that.

Q: Is there something that prompted you to get involved in the organization? What is your role within the organization?

London: I was approached by a woman who told me she had had a double mastectomy and she had reconstructive surgery; but she did not feel as feminine, and she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror, and she really wanted help in sort of getting her style back. It occurred to me then that style, fashion, the way that we always talk about it, is something so superficial. It was a fantastic tool in helping women sort of reclaim their identity after something as devastating as breast cancer, and I see that now across the board, in terms of woman who fought any kind of cancer, and men as well.

When you have to have such a fighting spirit, when your focus is on survival, you forget that there’s any way to feel better. If I can bring that in any way, shape, or form to anybody, that’s my goal, that’s what makes me happiest. In the same way that on What Not to Wear, we’re able to create an inner sense of beauty, or at least reflect that inner sense of beauty in a very fast way. I think that also applies to when you’re not feeling good about yourself, because of your health. I wanna be able to extend that same sort of philosophy to people who are hurting in any way.

Q: What has been the most moving experience you had while working with the American Cancer Society?

London: I would actually have to say it’s not [with the American Cancer Society] … the most moving experience I’ve had with cancer is that I have two very good friends who are going to be tonight who are both breast cancer survivors. When my friend told me about it, that she had been diagnosed, and that she was told in the same day she was going to lose both her breasts, and that she was not going to be able to have children as a result of chemotherapy and radiation, that she was going to lose all her hair, she told me that she went out, she had very long beautiful blond hair and has had it for as long as I’ve known her, she went and got a Mohawk.

I’m getting chills talking about it, because I thought it was such an incredible expression of her taking control over something that feels like you’re out of control, and feels uncontrollable and is so terrifying. I’m so thankful that she’s here, and I’m so thankful that organizations like the American Cancer Society make that possible. I’m sorry, I’m getting so emotional, but it just means a great deal to me. I don’t think there’s enough anybody could do, certainly not enough that I could do, to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to tell their story, and still be here to tell it.

Q: What can people do if they would like to become more involved with this cause?

London: You can go to the Web site and get involved. I love the idea of community outreach, one of the biggest things about this event being in Brooklyn is that it is for the Brooklyn Center itself. Get involved, whether it’s in Manhattan or the Bronx, it doesn’t matter. They’re all connected obviously, we’re all trying to do work, but we’re really concentrating tonight on Brooklyn and community outreach for this area, about early detection, about getting tested, about knowing what your options are, about understanding this disease.

Also, it’s about volunteering at the Hope Lodge for the program Look Good, Feel Better. It could be about anything, it could be about canvassing. But the idea is to really sort of allow people to understand how much information is available, and the ways in which to best get help if they need it.