By VICKI BENNINGTON
When a family member is in pain, the first reaction is to want to do something to help.
Jermell Keys responded to that instinct by honoring his grandmother and breast cancer survivor, Marlene Lee, with a fashion show to help her past her pain and make her smile again.
An assembly line worker at General Motors, Keys also has had experience of his own with modeling and fashion, and his grandmother is a stylish woman, so an event showcasing some of the latest styles seemed the perfect way to join everything together in one inspiring evening.
The result was The Aesthetics of Breast Cancer Fashion Show, founded in 2016, which not only honors his grandmother, but three more breast cancer survivors, who get a chance to share their inspirational stories.
Lee’s cancer journey started two years ago when she was 66 years old. She wasn’t feeling well, and said she just felt “off.” She wasn’t sure what was wrong, but visited her doctor, and a mammogram revealed that she had Stage 0 breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ.
After localized surgery and several weeks of radiation treatment, Keys said he realized what a strong woman she was.
“When I would visit her, I saw her pain, and after she finished her treatments, I wanted to do something special for her,” Keys said. “I wanted to help make her feel beautiful again.”
Lee is now cancer-free, and Keys said he plans to continue to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection, while celebrating the lives of those affected by the disease.
“Fashion has to do with beauty, love and respect, and my grandma, the honorees and all the guests have a chance to be inspired and share the joy of these women,” Keys said.
Under the moniker, “Cancer Can’t Beat Beautiful,” local models will walk the runway with the current fashions of five designers. Local poet, Truely, will read an original poem that was inspired by additional survivors, who will have the opportunity to stand and be recognized.
Keys is also attending Lindenwood University, studying digital cinema arts, and hopes to expand the fashion show concept beyond the region, honoring survivors of all cancers.
The ABC Fashion Show will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., Sunday, October 15, at the Third Degree Glass Factory, 5200 Delmar Blvd. in St. Louis. Tickets are $25 ($50 VIP). Visit abcfashionshow.org for more information.