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Cancer survivors strut their stuff

DESIGN DISTRICT

Cancer survivors took to the catwalk alongside doctors and nurses at a fashionable fundraiser for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Wearing an aqua dress, black high heels and clutching a Chanel purse, Bal Harbour resident Cindy Davis Carr walked down the runway at a Design District charity event — but she was showing off more than just her fashion sense.

“I am modeling myself,” Carr said proudly.

In 2003, Carr was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and sought help from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

On Nov. 11, Carr celebrated her victory against cancer as she strutted alongside Dr. Alan Livingstone, her oncologist, at Design for a Cure. The fashion show, which took place at the Moore Building, 4040 NE Second Ave., helps raise money for the cancer center.

“This evening is extraordinary just to see survivors that have won,” said Carr, who served as an honorary chair for the gala event — and had worked to raise money for the center — before she was diagnosed.

A former vice president of a liquor and wine business, Carr joined 12 patients-turned-models on the runway.

Perry Ellis outfitted male models, while the ladies showcased the latest fashion from The Worth Collection.

The models were escorted by 14 doctors and nurses at the event, which takes place every two years.

More than 600 people attended the show, where participants also had a chance to buy sports memorabilia, designer clothes, and jewelry from a silent auction to benefit the center. The Sylvester Center, opened in 1992, treats more than 4,000 patients a year and performs more than 2,400 surgical procedures. Organizers say they raised more than $250,000 at the event.

Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, chairwoman of the Design for a Cure committee, said the feeling on the runway is like no other.

“When I walked on the runway with my doctors, it was a celebration of survivorship and battling a dreaded disease,” said Buttrick, who modeled in 2007 after fighting kidney cancer.

Even though David Octavio Gandell often works as a model, his turn on the runway brought on butterflies.

“To be on stage as a supporter and to be looked at as a survivor, not a model is an experience that you hope you give someone here hope and inspiration today,” said Gandell, general manager of Gold’s Gym South Beach, who battled with a rare form of malignant tumor called immature teratoma.

Unlike the patients who showcased the latest fashion, doctors walked on the lighted runway dressed in their lab coats.

“It’s a wonderful feeling compared to being in the hospital,” said Dr. Jerry Goodwin, a head and neck surgeon at Sylvester. “The hospital is a totally different atmosphere.”

Patient-model Trudi Pollack says meeting Goodwin, who escorted her, outside the hospital was a joyful experience.

“I am used to seeing him in a different setting and here we are in a social setting,” said Pollack, who lives in Coconut Grove and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2008. “It’s exciting.”

Livingstone, Carr’s surgeon, says he was honored to hear his patient chose him to accompany her on the runway.

“When your patient recognizes what you have done for them and exposes it publicly, it is gratifying,” he said.

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