- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

What if you couldn’t find a fashionable dress or a form-fitting swimsuit because you had a mastectomy or have been badly disfigured scarred by cancer surgery and radiation treatments? What if you couldn’t afford to pay for customized clothing or hair coverings or makeup because you have no insurance, and even if you did, the insurer refused to pay for such “cosmetic” accoutrements?

Check out Alexandra Boos, a full-figured beauty with the Ford Modeling Agency, and Minoo Mobin-Ventura, co-owner and lead designer of Belafigura designs. They have teamed up others to provide products, resources and services for the uninsured and the underinsured that may be just as critical to a female cancer patient’s well-being as chemotherapy.

“Watching my mom, I got to see that how we feel on the outside affects our health and well-being,” said Ms. Boos, executive director of the Clarity Breast Cancer Foundation. Ms. Boos helped establish the organization in honor of mother, a survivor who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago

Fortunately, her mother had insurance and could afford the costly items that she needed to make her feel like herself through recovery.

“When we started out a year ago, we thought we would be serving low-income women, but now we have women who have lost their jobs with six-figure salaries and insurance policies who are calling us,” Ms. Boos said.

For Mrs. Mobin-Ventura, helping women to achieve and maintain outward beauty to boost their spirits during treatment and recovery hits even closer to home. For more than five years, she has survived a rare form of cancer that required four surgeries.

“My stomach was stretched and I had a surgery scar across my back, and I asked: ‘How do I wear a swimsuit?’ ”

She got busy designing her specialty line with colorful, stretch fabrics like “Moroccan spice.”

“Women who have cancer shouldn’t have to go to a boutique and hide,” said. “You should feel comfortable with what you wear.”

The pair teamed up recently to host a Fashionista High Tea at the ClaritycenterRX in Alexandria. It is owned by the foundation’s founders, David Magsumbol and David Hamblin saw a need to assist clients with cancer that could not afford their services and did not have insurance.

Patrons, nibbling tea sandwiches and sipping Bellinis, shouted “ooh” and “ahh” as models - some of them cancer survivors like Nancy Palleschi, sporting a black faux leather swimsuit - strutted their stuff in Belafigura beach and swimwear, designed for women who have had mastectomies or other treatment disfigurements.

“I wanted to make it attractive but cover some areas,” said Mrs. Mobin-Ventura. She added that she is committed to providing reasonably priced, cutting-edge couture to curvy women with or without mastectomy.

Nicer women you won’t meet. In fact, it was chance meetings at Saks Fifth Avenue in the District that brought togetherMs. Boos of Alexandria, Mrs. Mobin-Ventura of Gaithersburg and Gurvir Dhindsa, Fox 5 news anchor and the emcee for the May 9 fundraiser.

Participants were asked to purchase a swimsuit for themselves and one for a Clarity recipient. They were able to raise more money, Mrs. Mobin-Ventura said, because the models, who are professionals, worked pro bono.

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