Key to the Cure: Passion for fashion raises awareness

A local cancer survivor takes part in VCU Massey Cancer Center’s joint effort with Saks Fifth Avenue to turn Richmond’s passion for fashion into an evening devoted to raising money and awareness for cancer research.

For those who have gotten to know me through my writing, you have probably gathered that I am passionate, if not obsessive, about fashion. So, I was ecstatic when VCU Massey Cancer Center asked me to be a part of this year’s Saks Fifth Avenue’s Key to the Cure, presented by U.S. Trust and scheduled for Thursday, October 21st. Saks at Stony Point Fashion Park has joined forces with VCU Massey Cancer Center, our only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center in Central Virginia, to be the sole benefactor of this event. The two have partnered together since Saks opened at Stony Point Fashion Park in 2003. Last year, the event raised $30,000, all of which went to women’s cancer research at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

My Story

I suppose that I should also explain my other passion, which is raising money and awareness for cancer research. Yes, it is one of many causes that I raise awareness for as part of my job at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park, but it’s the one dearest to my heart.

Five years ago I made a routine trip to the dermatologist’s office, and they wanted to send me on my way after seeing almost no blemishes on my skin. I decided to point out to the doctor one spot on my forehead that had been bothering me. It was a small pink dot where the skin had soften and not healed. She said “Oh, Courtney, it’s nothing.” I assured her it was something, and after insisting she took a biopsy.

Three weeks has passed until I finally received a call from the lab. They said, “Ms. Skunda, your test was positive for carcinoma…how soon can you come in for surgery?” I remember stopping in my tracks and thinking “What?! I’m 25 years old and I have skin cancer? How is that possible?” The lab technician decided to comfort me by saying that it was not melanoma, so it had not spread to my other organs, so I at least had that in my favor.

Shortly thereafter I went to see the top doc at VCU Dermatology. He was a little perplexed that someone so young could have a carcinoma exactly like mine. He said it was possibly caused from not wearing sunscreen before the age of 5, but he couldn’t be sure; it also could have been genetic.

My first surgery was what they call Moh’s Surgery, which is when they surgically remove each layer of tissue of your skin and place it under a microscope until the skin is cancer free. Unfortunately for me, once they starting removing the tissue, they found more cancerous tissue. So, I was left with a big gaping hole in my forehead. For a case like mine, they then send you home until the following day when you go in for round two: reconstructive surgery. I was really lucky that Richmond is home to the Cancer Reconstructive Center where they specialize in cases like this. They did a fantastic job fixing me up, and after a year or so of visits, my face started to look like normal again. My life now consists of body scans at the dermatologist every four months and biopsies when things look suspicious. I also buy SPF 70 or above sunscreen in bulk and don’t go outdoors without generously applying it.

Key To The Cure

If you love fashion or just love supporting the cause of women’s cancer research, there are so many reasons why you should come to Key to the Cure. First and foremost, there will be incredible drinks and food that evening. Tastings will be set up around the store from the area’s finest restaurants, includin: Cakes by Graham, TJ’s Restaurant and Lounge, Morton’s, Six Burner, Pearl’s Cupcakes, P.F. Changs, The Melting Pot, Topeka’s Steakhouse, and Wild Ginger. While you sip on signature cocktails by Richmond’s own Bobby Kreuger, you can dance the evening away to music by Emme St. James and Her Jazz Gentlemen.

For those more interested in partaking in the fashion indulgences of that evening, there will be plenty. Virginia’s own Temple St. Clair will be hosting a trunk show just for this special event. Temple is extremely well known for her gorgeous pendant necklaces and work with gold and semi-precious stones. Her fine jewelry collection is now sold in luxury retailers all over North America, Europe, and Asia, including Saks Fifth Avenue.

Every year, a famous designer creates a commemorative T-shirt for the event that is sold in Saks nationwide. This year Donna Karan designed a stylish T-shirt, modeled by actress Uma Thurman. You can purchase one at Saks for $35 with 100 percent of the proceeds going to VCU Massey Cancer Center. And, for shopaholics like me, Saks will have special shopping incentives available that evening through the 24th of October with proceeds going to Massey. So, make sure to ask a Saks associate about how your purchase can help support Massey.

A special addition to the Richmond Key to the Cure event will be the White Coats for the Cure Fashion Show. Individuals touched by cancer (including myself), as well as researchers at Massey, will be modeling white lab coats that have been imaginatively designed by local artists, including Andras Bality, Bill Fisher, Matt Lively, Ann McLean, Cindy Neuschwander, Heidi Trepanier, and Kay Unger. After the event the lab coats will be auctioned off with proceeds going to Massey.

Key to the Cure is scheduled for Thursday, October 21st at 6pm at Saks Fifth Avenue in Stony Point Fashion Park. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased online. For more information on this event or to purchase tickets, please visit the Massey website.

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Courtney Skunda

Courtney Skunda is a Marketing and Public Relations Manager in Richmond, VA. She loves Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus in that exact order. You can read about her fashion obsessions on her blog, Cobblestone Couture.

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