Onset woman hits the catwalk for cancer research at New York’s Fashion Week

Mar 6, 2019

A 61-year-old Onset woman made her runaway debut last month at New York’s Fashion Week, modeling lingerie made for breast cancer patients like herself to raise money for awareness and treatment of the disease.

Barbara Bigelow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 along with her two sisters. She’s now in stage four of metastatic breast cancer, which is the term for when the disease spreads outside of the breasts and becomes terminal.

Doctors told Bigelow in 2015 that the disease would likely take her life within the next three or five years; but thanks to immunotherapy treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Bigelow was able to strut her stuff in New York free of active disease.

“I’m a unicorn,” Bigelow said. “I haven’t had a reoccurrence in three years.”

Bigelow was joined on the runway by 23 other models from around the country all afflicted by metastatic breast cancer.

Her two-piece lingerie outfit came from designer Ana Ono, who specializes in lingerie and swimwear for those affected by breast cancer. Bigelow also wore a robe with words like “brave” and “vulnerable” stitched on to vocalize her journey with the illness.

“I was very far out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But I’m extremely glad I did it.”

The show raised more than $100,000 for METAvivor, a nonprofit that donates 100 percent of its proceeds toward metastatic breast cancer research. Both Bigelow and her husband, Tim, have been actively involved with advocacy and fundraising through METAvivor for several years.

As a part of the show, Bigelow and the other models all wore purple wigs with METAvior’s colors, which were removed for the grand finale.

“It was huge high,” Bigelow said. “The crowd was absolutely electric, and we were just ourselves.”

Bigelow discovered METAvivor through a breast cancer conference hosted by Dana Farber where she met a variety of people also afflicted by the disease.

The mother of two adult children, Bridget and Kelsey, Bigelow said she captivated by METAvivor’s mission and wanted to use her remaining time to help others by raising funds for the nonprofit.

“My two girls are very high risk,” Bigelow said. “So maybe its too late for me, but it doesn’t have to be too late for my kids or anyone else’s.”

According to METAvivor, of the 1 in 8 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, 30 percent will have a recurrence of metastatic breast cancer. It’s estimated that the disease kills 114 people everyday.

“That’s like an airplane crashing every single day,” Bigelow said. “And no one is talking about it.”

Bigelow said her dying wish would be to live by and sea, and after 30 years she and her husband moved to Onset this fall from Easton.

Bigelow is now a member of the Gleason Family YMCA’s Live Strong program, and she said she plans to continue raising money for METAvivor with local events in Wareham.

On March 30, Bigelow will act as the Stonebridge Bistro’s “celebrity bartender,” serving up drinks from 7 to 10 p.m. to support METAvivor. The fundraiser will feature a raffle with gift baskets donated by local businesses.

“Everyone we’ve met here is so kind,” Bigelow said. “I can’t wait to see what its like in the summer.”

To see more photos of Bigelow at New York’s Fashion Week, check out the gallery below.