Major: Metastatic Breast Cancer Study Abroad
"I want to know more about you. I'll give you a ride back to your hotel so we can talk." It was 1:30 AM after the NYFW Gala. Champagne, bald and in the midst of chemo, vibrated with more energy than I have ever experienced and had the ability to make you feel like you were special.
We sat in her car for two hours, discussing everything from how to become a non-profit ("Just start it- no lawyers needed- and figure it out as you go"), to metastatic breast cancer ("We need to turn Breast Cancer into AIDS, a chronic Illness"). Champagne's vision for the future of breast cancer funding took inspiration from the era of the AIDS epidemic, where the gay community fought hard for funding and research towards a cure. Once a death sentence, HIV is now viewed as a chronic illness, thanks to the many men and women who committed their lives towards demanding a cure.
Champagne was a woman who didn't "sugarcoat" cancer. She wanted you to be so angry that you took BOLD action but at the same time, she still had JOY. "I will ask you nicely once, then I'll burn your house down and fuck your family, just so you remember me," she said mischievously, with a chuckle as she talked about changing legislation to get more funding towards Metastatic cancer.
When I emailed her because I was feeling burned-out on cancer, she called me and lovingly spent an hour and a half giving me golden tips, ending the conversation with, "Call me anytime." She told me that everything I did was a gift and I didn't owe anyone anything. She explained that I needed clear boundaries and had to double down on my other interests.
When you looked into her eyes, you saw a woman who accepted death with no fear because she knew she was living her life to its fullest.
I loved this woman from the moment I met her at the fitting for Ana Ono's New York Fashion Week show and her death has shaken me to my core.
I am ANGRY. Her death makes me question the entire Cancer Grad concept because in these excruciating moments, it does feel like a war. It feels as if someone was murdered by an enemy. But I know that isn't the best way to honor her, so I continue on to share the lessons we are learning.