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Photos Show There's Life After Cancer

October 06, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

Her mother had breast cancer. She had breast cancer. Marilyn Gayler Axelrod doesn't want her daughter--or anyone else's--to face the same ordeal.

But she acknowledges that her weapons against the disease may seem unusual: feather boas, dressy hats and glossy photos.

The 51-year-old Davis resident is the creator of the Wall of Hope, a traveling exhibit that shows glamour photographs of more than 1,000 breast-cancer survivors. She brought it to Newport Beach for the weekend and Western Medical Center-Santa Ana on Monday, where 150 survivors had make-overs, photo shoots and had their own images added to the wall.

"It might be a frivolous activity," Axelrod said. "But they're much different people from when they walk in the door. So we know we've made a difference, even if just for a day."

She said the photo shoots show women they're not alone in fighting the disease, and also give them a chance to feel good about themselves after their operations and treatments.

"I wanted women to have hope and fight back and realize they do have a life after breast cancer," a disease that annually strikes 185,000 women in the United States and kills another 46,000, she said.

Axelrod's breast cancer was diagnosed in June 1990, three months after her mother's. They both had mastectomies that July.

"I had to do something to reverse all of that negative stuff," Axelrod said.

Four years later, when her daughter, Hillary, left to attend UC Irvine, Axelrod started work on the Wall of Hope. The photos show women--and three men--from 25 to 92, from every ethnicity and walk of life, from more than 60 cities statewide. "It is giving hope to other women that people do survive this terrible disease," said Ginny Espenship, 56, of Anaheim Hills, who was in Santa Ana for her make-over and photos Monday.

"I'm having so much fun because there's so much interaction" among the women, she said. "There's a lot of laughter."

"I'm a teacher and kind of on the shy side," said Sue Scilla, 46, who got a cancer diagnosis 2 1/2 years ago. "But everyone here is very encouraging. I had a blast."

Axelrod also designed the wall to raise money for the cause. When women at the two Orange County stops bought extra copies of their photos, the proceeds went to local support groups.

"I think about my daughter," Axelrod said. "I want breast cancer stopped for all the daughters."

Information: (800) 375-2848.

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