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Breast Cancer Survivors Smile on 'Wall of Hope'

April 22, 1999|NEDA RAOUF

Feather boas, leather jackets and formal gowns were the outfits of choice Wednesday when glamour shots of breast cancer survivors graced a 150-foot wall in a shopping mall.

The Wall of Hope, a traveling exhibit on display through Sunday at the Westfield Shoppingtown Topanga, recognizes more than 1,100 survivors of the disease with individual 8-by-10 photographs.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Breast Cancer Survivors' Project, a Davis-based nonprofit organization started five years ago by Marilyn Gayler Axelrod, a nine-year survivor of breast cancer.

"I wanted to have an icon that the public could focus on for breast cancer," Axelrod said Wednesday.

She hopes to create a mile-long wall of photographs depicting breast cancer survivors from all over the country that would be displayed in Washington, D.C., under the name "Mile of Survival."

So far, she has collected pictures of survivors in Ohio and Connecticut for the national project.

"[It's important] for people to see that there are survivors and that you don't have to die," said Sherry Ann Dern, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994. She handed out information at the wall Wednesday.

She said she hopes the project increases awareness about the disease: "It's not a death sentence."

Most of the photographs depict women, but three men are also on the wall. They are all Californians.

"It's just kind of scary because you think it can never happen to you, but obviously it can," said visitor Erin Thompson. "Having two kids, it impacts you more, rather than if I was single."

Nationally, 2 million women and 13,000 men are living with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

For more information on the wall, call (800) 375-2848.

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