Courage on the Catwalk puts cancer victims in the spotlight
FOR Karen Fulton, taking to the catwalk for the first time was about much more than putting on a nice dress and having big hair for the day.
To her, it was about laying that “fat, bald chick” that she became while suffering from cancer to rest - for good.
Karen Fulton, 43, was one of 24 women from the north east of Scotland who took part in the recent, hugely successful Courage on the Catwalk even in Aberdeen
Three emotionally-charged shows in the Beach Ballroom raised more than £100,000 for the Friends of Anchor which funds research, care and patient support at the Anchor Unit within Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Watching and cheering them on were hundreds of family members and friends as well as the cancer nurses and doctors who had cared for them.
All the women dressed in their finery were at a different stage in their cancer story whether they be in recovery, still in treatment, or facing just a few months more of being alive.
The atmosphere of the event is said to be electric, life affirming - and completely humbling.
Ms Fulton said: “On stage, I felt like me again. I felt like cancer had stolen my confidence and here I was, taking it back.
“It was like a battlecry. I had epic big hair - it was awesome- and my make up was amazing.
“By the time I was going down the runway I had been given much more than a new dress to wear. I had been given myself.”
Ms Fulton, 43, was diagnosed with stage 4b Hodgkins Lymphoma in March 2014. She knew something was wrong when the experienced swimmer found herself breathless after just a few lengths in the pool and a small lump in her neck was found.
While she felt headstrong about her treatment she admits that she didn’t realise how much of her old self was eroded by the experience of being so unwell.
“Its the treatment that takes you confidence. I put on weight, I lost my hair. I looked in the mirror one day and say a big, fat bald chick. Of course you will do anything to get better but you do want to still look in the mirror and feel and look yourself. For a while, that had gone.”
Taking part in Courage on the Catwalk has, in many ways, allowed for a new beginning.
“For me its feel like taking part in Courage has left a blank page for what comes next,” Ms Fulton, a HR manager, said.
Courage on the Catwalk has enjoyed huge support from within the Aberdeen business community with oil and gas firms Total, Apache and Nexen among sponsors.
It was Jim Milne, chairman of offshore company Balmoral Group, who set up Friends of Anchor following the death of his first wife, aged just 40. He also lost his mother, brother and father-in-law to the disease.
The fundraising and marketing work of Friends of Anchor is absorbed within Balmoral Group, so all money raised goes directly to the hospital unit.
Mr Milne said; “We put so much effort into Friends of Anchor. Those who go to the unit say it is always the little things that make a difference to them, like having a massage, or getting their feet done, or having a nice coffee and fresh food.
“Most of our money goes into research and there is great progress being made in Aberdeen, some amazing work is being done and all the staff at the unit are so dedicated to what they do.”
Mr Milne described the Courage event as a humbling one, with a “tear to the eye” often raised.
He said; “The girls who take part in Courage on the Catwalk are just amazing. To think some of them have not long to live, I find it a very humbling, sometimes difficult, experience. But what we are there to do is celebrate their courage, and that is what we do.”