Cancer survivors model

Something unique is planned for tonight’s 10th annual Strecker Cancer Center Fashion Show fundraiser-all 30 models and 15 volunteers assisting with the program are current or past patients at the Strecker facility.

“These are amazing people. We have models that are in current chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Some are actually having treatments the same day as the event,” said Cortney Beymer, licensed social worker at the Strecker Cancer Center in Belpre, who’s coordinating the event.

She said one of the models just had a double mastectomy Friday, but is determined to take the stage tonight to prove cancer won’t beat her.

“I just had a total mastectomy five days ago, and I’m tired but feeling pretty good,” said 35-year-old Amy Biddinger, of Fleming.

The nurse, wife and mother of an 8-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and underwent chemotherapy through Easter before having surgery at the Strecker Cancer Center this month.

She’s still facing some weeks of radiation therapy, but you couldn’t tell it from her upbeat attitude.

“When asked if I wanted to be part of this year’s fashion show I was very honored, and it sounded like so much fun,” Biddinger said. “I was hoping there would be a little more time between the event and my surgery, but I just didn’t want to give it up.”

She was treated to a shopping trip at Twisted Sisters Boutique in downtown Marietta where Biddinger picked out the three outfits she’ll be modeling during tonight’s show.

“I plan to have a really good time,” Biddinger said. “And my son, Garrett, and husband, Andy, will be there to support me, along with other members of my family. I haven’t had a whole lot of fun in the past year-now it’s time.”

A cardiology nurse at Marietta Memorial Hospital, Biddinger said she’s attended a Strecker fashion show with fellow workers in the past.

“They always go, and the money raised helps patients who may not be able to pay for their cancer treatments and other expenses,” she said. “So I’m glad to help assist other people who are going through this.”

Judy Wurtzbacher, 51, of Devola is well into her second year as a breast cancer survivor.

A registered nurse in the pre- and post-operative surgery unit at Marietta Memorial Hospital, Wurtzbacher was diagnosed in September 2011 and after some consultation with her oncologist decided to have a double mastectomy and later underwent some reconstructive surgery.

Now she’s back on the job, but says her experience has forever linked her with an extremely close group of special people who are also cancer survivors.

“A girl I was introduced to after I was first diagnosed became my mentor during that time,” Wurtzbacher said. “She had been through the same experience, and let me call her anytime while going through my treatments. And now I’m mentoring another woman who’s going through treatments right now.”

Wurtzbacher said the cancer survivors group is a very close-knit group.

“It’s something you hope you’ll never have to join, but once you’re in, you’re in tight,” she said.

When asked to model during tonight’s fashion show, Wurtzbacher said she really wasn’t sure what she was getting into, but she wanted to help.

“There have been so many good things, wonderful people and support. It’s my first time modeling, and this is definitely moving me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

Wurtzbacher said she’s also meeting some new friends.

“And the women at Twisted Sisters were so nice. They helped me pick out my three outfits, complete with jewelry and accessories,” she said. “And what woman doesn’t like trying on clothes? It was like going shopping with someone else’s money, but for a very good cause.”

Beymer said the 550 tickets for tonight’s event were all sold out in just a few weeks, which is good news for the Strecker Indigent Fund, set up to help patients in financial need.

“Unfortunately, cancer can be very expensive. Patients lose their jobs and can’t afford their house payments, utilities, gas and prescriptions,” she said. “The indigent fund helps patients in emergency situations-to take the worry away so they can concentrate on feeling better. Our patients need all the strength mentally and physically to fight this disease.”