Life after breast cancer

(Created: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:22 PM CDT)

Linda Edwards will be easy to spot.

While other women will be in business suits, she’ll be the one in the low cut evening dress showing off what a plastic surgeon gave her.

Edwards, a McKinney mortgage broker, is one of a dozen or so models in the Celebrate Life and Fall Fashion show, which will take place Thursday night at Saks Fifth Avenue at the Shops at Willow Bend.

While these models may have different taste in clothes, they do have one thing in common: they’re all breast cancer survivors.

For Edwards, the fashion show is a chance to show others that breast cancer isn’t the end of woman’s feminity..

“I went straight for the evening dresses. I’ll be wearing a causual sundress and low cut evening dress. It’s very feminine. Don’t put pants on me and don’t put a jacket on me. First time since I had both my breasts remove, I felt like a woman,” she said.

It isn’t the end of her sense of humor either.

“I told Melanie (the fashion show coordinator) that if I couldn’t show off, I wasn’t doing it,” she said laughing.

Edwards can laugh now, but that wasn’t the case a little more than a year ago. When she was handed the dreaded diagnosis in August 2006, it sent her into a panic. She was in stage two. The disease already had spread into her lymph nodes.

Both of Edwards’ parents had died of cancer years before, and she feared that she’d suffer the same fate.

“My first thought was, “Oh my god. I’m going to die. Who’s going to take careof my children?’”

But her doctors, Drs. Lynn Canavan and Christine Carman Stiles, “brought me back off the ledge. I don’t know that if it weren’t for them I would have made it through,” Edwards said.

Canavan, Stiles along with Dr. Alicia Starr will lead a panel discussion on the latest advances in breast cancer research and treatment. The panel discussion begins at 6 p.m., prior to the fashion show.

“They became my friends and doctors and therapists. Without them I don’t know what I would have done. I would not have made it through the last year. You got to have the right team of doctors.”

Her family stood beside her as well. A 42-year-old single mom with two children, Edwards watched her teenage daughter slip into the role of caretaker.

“My daughter became my mother. She’d ask me, ‘Did you eat? Did you take your medication? You need to go to bed. You need to get up?” Edwards said.

It also changed her relationship with her older sister. “It totally changed her life. After our mother died, she thought it was her job to take care of me. We became closer,” Edwards said.

Even though cancer was contained to her left side, Edwards underwent a bilateral radical mastectomy at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.

She had both of her breasts removed so that she’d never have to undergo the same ordeal again. Eight surgeries later, the nightmare is essentially behind her. She didn’t require chemotheraphy, though she must take an estrogen recepter for the next five years.Her disease was estrogen positive, which means it is more likely to grow in a high-estrogen environment. The medication helps reduce that chance.

Despite the adversity, Edwards says the disease has had an affirmative impact on her life.

“Breast cancer changed my life for the positive. It’s made me a different person, for the better,” she said. “It’s put me on a different path in life.”

That path leads back to college where she is 15 months from completing her master’s degree and already has her sights on a doctorate degree.

“I was talking to Dr. Canavan and figured out my purpose in life,” she said. “I want to get a Ph.D. in psychology to help people like me. It’s something I need to do for myself. I want to be able to help people because when I was diagnosed, I was lost. I want to have that outreach.”

Edwards’ pronosis is positive. “I’m high on life. I’m good.”

The fashion show is part of Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Key to the Cure” campaign. The Shops at Willow Bend is located at 2401 Dallas Parkway. A reception begins at 5 p.m., followed by the physicians’ panel. The fashion show begins at 7 p.m.

Contact Lynn Proctor Windle at