One Winnipeg woman is taking her fight against ovarian cancer to the catwalk.
Leslie Malcolmson — in partnership with the Diamond Gallery in Winnipeg and Gimli’s Johnson’s department store — will hold the Hope Springs into Fashion fundraiser at the gallery, located at 1735 Corydon Ave., on Thurs., April 18 from 7 to 10 p.m. Malcolmson is a long-time customer at both businesses.
The St. Vital resident is living with recurrent ovarian cancer and is currently in remission after twice being diagnosed in 2008 and 2010, which has included a total of 18 months of chemotherapy.
As well as raising funds for ovarian cancer research, Malcolmson hopes the event will also help increase awareness about early detection for the disease, which kills approximately 1,750 Canadian women each year.
"The event is focused on giving both hope and information about my disease. It has long been one of my dreams to spread the word and given my love of fashion and jewelry, this seemed the perfect combination," said Malcolmson, noting the Diamond Gallery will provide jewelry for the models for the fashion show-focused event, while Johnson’s will contribute clothing and footwear.
Malcolmson hopes to create a dialogue focusing on the "signs, symptoms and realities of the disease" in light of the fact there is "no standardized screening for ovarian cancer, so early intervention is critical."
"’My particular disease is lesser-known than, say, breast cancer or cervical cancer, yet it’s potentially the most lethal," Malcolmson said.
"Historically, there’s a reluctance to discuss women’s gynecological issues and I never had one symptom," she said, noting she was eventually diagnosed after an unrelated pelvic exam. "I was delivered a bullet by my doctor and since then, I’ve had the fight of my life."
Malcolmson urged women to pay attention to subtle symptoms, such as abdominal bloating, excessive flatulence, abdominal cramping, indigestion and the feeling of fullness early in a meal.
"These symptoms can be nebulous enough for many women to ignore or discount them or delay seeking a medical opinion before it’s too late. That’s what’s so scary about this," she said, noting both her husband and son work in the gynecological field and "neither knew" she had the disease before she was diagnosed.
"It’s about women really listening to their bodies and responding in kind. You deserve to get things assessed and you’re not bothering medical professionals. We need to be proactive and assertive and take ownership of our bodies for our piece of mind."
Lisa Malbranck, who co-owns the gallery with her parents, Anita and Allan, and is donating the space in an adjacent building for the show, said Malcolmson has become a role model for women during her cancer fight.
"Leslie has strong will, motivation and is a survivor," said Malbranck, who lives in River Heights.
"She has a personality that draws you in and is such a lovely lady and a strong woman. As a role model, she’s right up there," she added, noting Malcolmson will be one of the models at the event.
"It’s a really important cause and a cancer that a lot of people don’t talk about. The lives of many people at the event will have been touched by this particular cancer."
For more information, or to donate, visit www.ovariancanada.org.