East Providence Breast Cancer survivor, sons to triumphantly walk runway at May 11 Gemma Fashion Show

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PAWTUCKET — When one hears the phrase “survivor fashion show,” chances are good that he or she expects an event that honors people who overcome a particular disease.

With its upcoming Our Heroes Annual Survivor Fashion Show, the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is doing exactly that—and more.

“Breast cancer affects the entire family, as well as the whole community,” said Maria Gemma, executive director of the Pawtucket-based nonprofit.

Nowi n its sixth year, the event takes place on Saturday, May 11, at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. Three groups of models will showcase the latest styles provided by some of Rhode Island’s premiere boutiques and clothiers: individuals diagnosed before the age of 40, individuals undergoing treatment, and family members.

Josephina Periquito, a survivor from East Providence, is one of the models and will be escorted down the runway by her two sons.

Josephina’s husband keenly remembers his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis, news that one in six women in the Ocean State will hear during her lifetime. “Josephina was diagnosed on October 17, 2005 when she was only 28,” said Manny Periquito.

Breast cancer is as much a physical disease as it is an emotional one, according to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. Unfortunately for the Periquitos—like so many other families faced with breast cancer—their financial wellbeing was put to the test, as well.

“I got a job with the East Providence Water Department and two months later, my wife found out she had breast cancer,” said Manny. “We were very lucky to have just gotten health insurance.”

Undergoing surgery, radiation for a month everyday except for weekends, in addition to exhaustive chemotherapy treatment for six months, Josephina made the difficult decision to take an eight-month hiatus from her then-job at a jewelry manufacturer in East Providence.

“For a year and a half, it was really tough,” added Manny. “I told her ‘if we lose the house, it’s no big deal.’”

Through her journey with breast cancer, Josephina received support from members of both her immediate and extended family.

“Our two boys were only 8 and 11 years-old at the time and were always by her side,” said Manny. “I remember that we used to hide the hair she lost from chemo that we would find throughout the house so she wouldn’t feel bad.”

Manny’s sister Susie was also very supportive of her sister-in-law, accompanying Josephina to every chemotherapy appointment.

“We stayed strong as a unit and things got better for us and we didn’t lose our home,” said Manny, gratefully.

“Josephina’s family is a perfect example of what most families faced with breast cancer go through,” added Maria Gemma. “Jordan and Justin should hold their heads up high when they escort their mother down the catwalk.”

In addition to the fashion show portion, this year’s event features a marketplace, entertainment, and a seated dinner.

The Periquitos initially became involved with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation in 2005. “A lot of people don’t know what they do,” said Manny. “Even for us, we had no clue that they offer yoga and cooking classes.”

“Josephina always tells me how supportive the Foundation is and how nice it is to hearother people’s stories at their gatherings and support groups,” he added. “They’re even doing things for husbands,” Manny said, referring to his involvement with the organization’s Men’s Group, a support and social club for husbands of survivors.

“Our fashion show is not just a charity fundraiser,” said Maria Gemma. “Our event celebrates the unique spirit and beauty of people faced with breast cancer and is a tribute to everyone affected.”

“We’re especially excited and honored to have Josephina and her family participate,” she concluded.

One of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation’s “Signature Events,” the annual fashion show takes place on Saturday, May 11 at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet . Tickets are $45.00 each and a table of ten (10) is $425.  For more information, visit our website at www.gloriagemma.org or call 401-861-4376.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.