Donna O’Neil is a young breast cancer survivor from Johnston who took part in the “Our Heroes Fashion Show” to benefit the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet this past Saturday night.
Timed to coincide with the running of the Kentucky Derby, many guests appeared in hats and apparel honoring the occasion.
More than 600 people were in attendance to cheer on patients, survivors and community heroes who took part in the fashion show. There were 29 models in the show in addition to three escorts.
Donations from Sonya’s Clothing, Botticelli, Caronah Cassell Designs, Franklin Rogers and Off-Broadway Shoes Inc. were spotlighted. Also included in the evening’s events were a cocktail hour, dinner and raffles.
O’Neil spoke about her experience with cancer.
“I was diagnosed on Oct. 11, 2017 – ironically, the same date as the 10th anniversary of my dad’s passing,” she said.
O’Neil said her breast cancer was diagnosed in a “nontraditional way.” After opting for an elective breast reduction in September 2017, she said, her surgeon, Pierre Michaud, sought an examination of her breast tissue.
“His office demonstrates how every doctor’s office should be –compassionate,” she said.
At the time of her diagnosis, O’Neil was busy raising two sons with her husband of 21 years, Hank. She had a double mastectomy and was out of work for six weeks.
“During my battle with breast cancer, the waiting on results was grueling, and I found comfort in my husband’s arms and the hundreds of calls and text messages from friends and family checking in on me,” she said.
O’Neil also credited her “work family” for their support. Now, she is back to “working and being a mom and a loving wife.”
“The Gloria Gemma foundation is so special to me,” she said. “I was a little nervous to get up and strut my stuff in front of 600 people, but when I approached the runway and heard all the cheering, I just relaxed and truly enjoyed the moment,” she said. “Seeing all my friends and family smiling and cheering made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’ve made so many lasting friendships through the foundation and I’m so thankful for them and all the support.”