“Say Yes to the Dress” host Lori Allen brought her tough-as-nails, soft-as-silk wit and wisdom to a Turlock event raising awareness of breast cancer.
Allen, herself a cancer survivor, spoke at the Emanuel Cancer Center’s annual Women’s Cancer Awareness Night Out on Tuesday.
She got her diagnosis of cancer in both breasts over the phone in 2012 while driving her husband to the hospital for a surgery. Eddie stood beside her, both hale and hearty now, at the Turlock event.
Part of her message was to urge women to get a mammogram. “I almost didn’t go. After all, like many women, I’m busy,” Allen said. Besides the discomfort, there is that little dark fear of finding out, she said. “I think we’re afraid there will be a bad result.”
She had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, her story becoming the TLC special “Say Yes to the Cure: Lori’s Fight.”
The advice she had for those weathering the cancer fight now was for their friends and families: “Look them in the eye,” she said. So many people, feeling awkward, would stare above her head. “It drove me crazy!” she said, “I’m still here.”
The contrast of her show’s focus on a single dress for a single day, weighed against the life and death struggle she and others have faced, is not lost on her.
“A lot of times I think, you are making a bigger deal of this than it needs to be,” Allen said with a laugh. But she maintains the show is about more than the yes or the dress.
“It’s really a story,” she said. “It’s not about the piece of satin or taffeta. It’s about the families blending together.”
Participants are picked from the 1,000 or so submissions that arrive each month at the “Yes to the Dress” show. Filming takes place at Allen’s bridal shop, which is stocked with couture (over $3,000 each) brideswear in all sizes.
“The average size of today’s bride is a 14-16,” she noted, and the show reflects the range of bridal body shapes. “It is a 100 percent real reality show,” Allen stressed.
But it was the reality of cancer, including its improving survival rates, that was the focus for Tuesday. The evening included a bridal theme throughout, with survivors given bouquets before walking through a procession and a diamond ring given to one woman —by a firefighter on bended knee, no less. But Allen, with her message that was by turns touching and hilarious, was the centerpiece.
“I wanted to turn a negative experience into a positive one.” Allen said. “I wanted to encourage women to get a mammogram. I wanted to help somebody going through the same thing that’s afraid. I wanted to tell everyone, ‘Don’t put your health on the back burner.’”
“Most of all, realize that your journey will not be the same as mine or your friend’s or your mom’s,” she said. “Find your own path. There’s no set path for cancer. Those of us who wear pink know this all too well.”