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The Schmooze

Donna Karan Honored at Lungevity Foundation Gala

‘It’s so great when other people wear your clothing,” joked fashion guru and founder of Donna Karan Ltd. Donna Karan, honoree at the Lungevity Foundation’s Celebration of Hope Gala at The Pierre. Wearing a body-hugging black silk sleeveless dress, long black shawl, black boots and imposing triangular tribal metal necklace, fashion was not on the menu that night. Founder of Urban Zen Foundation, and the Urban Zen Stores which “marry philanthropy and commerce” Karan spoke passionately of her husband who succumbed to lung cancer.

“He was a cool dude, really hot artist, photographer…father… who was dismissive of my yoga till he was diagnosed with lung cancer [a disease] that makes breath so difficult.” Karan went on to describe how his battle to breathe became a catalyst for the Urban Zen program.. In the face of her own husband’s battle with lung cancer Ms. Karan discovered a way to care for lung cancer patients that medical treatments could not provide. “I spent decades dressing people. now I want to address them.”

Donna Karan Image by Karen Leon

“We go into hospitals, do in-bed yoga, aromatherapy, nutrition…We did a clinical study at Beth Israel Hospital so they wanted me to design the doctors’ uniforms, the nurses’ uniforms….’Sorry guys…I want to design a care system.’” Karan informed that “Thanks to the Urban Zen Therapies Program “We saved $900,000 on one floor in the hospital.”

The statistical shocker was the disease’s numerical profile. Lungevity Foundation president and chairman Andrea Ferris informed: “Lung cancer kills 160,000 people a year. There are 400,000 Americans living with lung cancer today. While colon, breast and prostate cancer all have reliable detection tests—lung cancer does not! Currently only 17% of those diagnosed survive 5 years post diagnosis. Sixty percent of all lung cancer diagnoses are of those who never smoked or are former smokers…. It kills more people than colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancers combined!”

“If you were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 there was still no way to detect it early…. Learning of your diagnosis, your doctor would tell you to go home and get your affairs in order. Treatments were limited…toxic. Now in 2014 personalized medicine is a reality…. we now have definitive proof that finding lung cancer early saves lives and innovative treatments are being developed.”

When Ferris asked lung cancer survivors in the room to raise their hands and be identified, there was an explosion of applause.

Emceed by “News 4 New York” award-winning co-anchor David Ushery, the event’s honorary gala chair was Mrs. John Updike whose husband the noted American writer succumbed to lung cancer in 2009. Her son and vice-chair Jason Bernhard was among the event’s speakers.

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