Sunday, October 3, 2010

Former Paralegal Raises Breast Cancer Awareness via Project Runway Spinoff

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sharing fellow North Carolinian Marcy Gallagher's story seems like a great way for Practical Paralegalism to help spread the message - and also neatly ties together my love for the legal profession, chocolate, and all things Project Runway.

Gallagher, a former paralegal who owns Kilwin's confection shops in Asheville and Black Mountain with her husband, Tom, will be featured on this week's episode of the Lifetime Project Runway spinoff, On the Road with Austin and Santino. Each week, the designers surprise women across the country with one-of-a-kind gowns designed especially for them, to celebrate significant events in their lives.

All Gallagher can say is that the dress designed for her is amazing. She can't dish on the fashion, or about meeting the show's stars, until after the episode airs. You can see the trailer for the episode at the show's website.

Gallagher, now cancer-free for five years, did share the details of her battle against breast cancer with the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Five years ago Marcy Gallagher was darting through the halls of her office as a busy paralegal in Florida, healthy as a horse. She had just married Tom Gallagher, then a lawyer in the same firm.

After discovering a small but unusual lump in her breast one day during a routine self-exam — a ritual she practiced regularly — she was in touch with her doctor. She wasn't worried, she said, because she'd had a mammogram only three months earlier. It showed nothing.

I was so good about getting all my doctor exams in,” Marcy Gallagher said. “Just three months before, I'd been given the ‘all clear' to not worry because the mammogram didn't catch it. If I hadn't discovered something myself, who knows how long it would have taken before I was diagnosed.”

Gallagher underwent the full gamut of breast cancer treatment — a double mastectomy, radiation and six months of chemotherapy — with a similarly comprehensive set of grueling symptoms.

Now Gallagher and her husband hand out "smiles instead of subpoenas," although he still keeps a hand in the law by volunteering as a trial lawyer for Pisgah Legal Services. (If I were going to leave the paralegal profession for anything, chocolate would certainly be at the top of the list.)

Gallagher's message is much more important to her than the dress:

“I think they chose me for the show because I really have a message. Like a ‘Shout it from the rooftops' kind of message: get to know your body, perform self-exams. And don't be afraid to find something. Be afraid not to find it.”

Legal professionals work long hours in fast-paced, stress-filled environments, and it's easy to forget to take care of ourselves when we're so busy looking after everyone else. But don't let your monthly breast self-exam fall by the wayside. If you're not sure you're doing it correctly, talk to your doctor, and review the many resources available online, including the Mayo Clinic's detailed instructions at

I'll leave you with some timely fashion advice from Austin:
I personally believe the rule about never leaving the house without white gloves may be relaxed slightly when one goes to the farmers’ market for root vegetables.

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