Meet Sabrina Fuoco, the in­cred­i­ble, in­spi­ra­tional win­ner of this year’s Well­spring Model Search.

Five-time can­cer sur­vivor Sabrina Fuoco is ready for her close-up!

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider -

lights, cam­­tion! There I was, with a huge smile on my face, sit­ting on the couch at the Four Sea­sons Toronto d|bar ready for my first shot. I had been trans­formed from “can­cer­lebrity” to model.

I was over­whelmed with ex­cite­ment when I was told that I had been cho­sen as the 2016 Well­spring Model Search win­ner. The night be­fore the shoot, I couldn’t sleep; I had but­ter­flies in my stom­ach. All I could think about was wear­ing fab­u­lous high­fash­ion shoes and daz­zling jew­ellery.

There was some road con­struc­tion that morn­ing, so I was a lit­tle late for my call time. When I en­tered the gor­geous ho­tel suite, Noreen Flana­gan, ELLE Canada’s editor-in-chief, told me that I was fash­ion­ably late. “You are a model!” she said, laugh­ing. And that is when the fairy-tale week­end be­gan. I was pam­pered and treated like roy­alty by the en­tire team. It felt so sur­real hav­ing my pic­ture taken for a fash­ion shoot—some­thing I’d only dreamed of.

Fash­ion and beauty have al­ways played a role in my life, even when I was a three­year-old child un­der­go­ing gru­elling can­cer treat­ments for rhab­domyosar­coma—a can­cer of de­vel­op­ing mus­cle tis­sue—on my neck. My mom likes to re­mind me that even back then I wanted my nails painted and in­sisted on wear­ing my shiny white patentleather shoes to the hos­pi­tal.

To this very day, there is some­thing about pretty clothes, stun­ning shoes and girlie ac­ces­sories that in­stantly up­lifts me and puts a smile on my face. A great wardrobe and a lit­tle makeup can do won­ders for the soul.

How­ever, it was not al­ways glitz and glam­our for me. Can­cer has also been a big part of my life: I bat­tled the dis­ease when I was a child, a teenager (thy­roid) and a young adult (uter­ine, kid­ney and a ma­lig­nant pe­riph­eral nerve sheath tu­mour). Be­ing a five­time sur­vivor, I am not new to the can­cer game, al­though my most chal­leng­ing di­ag­no­sis came in Fe­bru­ary 2014, when I was h

told that the os­teosar­coma I was treated for the year prior had spread to both of my lungs. The di­ag­no­sis: metastatic os­teosar­coma. I was 32 years old at the time, and I was be­ing told that I had an in­cur­able can­cer with a very poor sur­vival rate. In the peak of my life, I was fac­ing death.

Fac­ing an in­cur­able can­cer in your early 30s is some­thing no one should ever have to get used to. I was driven and de­ter­mined more than ever to beat this dis­ease again. I have read nearly ev­ery can­cer book on the mar­ket, re­vamped my en­tire diet and life­style and started prac­tis­ing med­i­ta­tion. This is how I was in­tro­duced to Well­spring, a Cana­dian can­cer­sup­port foun­da­tion. I en­rolled in the med­i­ta­tion classes there as well as the Heal­ing Jour­ney pro­gram. Well­spring has been a true bless­ing: Not only have I met su­perb and com­pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­u­als who are ex­tremely sup­port­ive of one an­other but I’ve also armed my­self with an­other weapon to use in my fight against can­cer.

Al­though this treach­er­ous dis­ease has tried to slow me down, in­ter­rupt­ing pretty much ev­ery mile­stone in my life, I do my best not to let it de­fine me. I be­came a lawyer, mar­ried my soul­mate and now have a new fo­cus: can­cer ad­vo­cacy. My ul­ti­mate goal is to live in a world where can­cer no longer poses a threat to any­one, but in the mean­time I am ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of can­cer pa­tients ev­ery­where and hop­ing that I can in­spire them to never give up or lose hope. I have started a blog [can­cer­girlsmiles.word­] as a tool to raise aware­ness, which has al­lowed me to con­nect with can­cer pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. I have also been asked to give pre­sen­ta­tions, and I am work­ing to­ward cre­at­ing a foun­da­tion to raise money for re­search into ar­eas that re­ceive less fund­ing in or­der to help fill gaps that cur­rently ex­ist, es­pe­cially with re­spect to rare can­cers, metastatic dis­ease and hered­i­tary can­cer syn­dromes, such as Li-Frau­meni syn­drome. In 2011, I was di­ag­nosed with this rare syn­drome, which af­fects roughly only 500 fam­i­lies world­wide.

Over the years, can­cer has stolen my hair, my en­ergy lev­els, chunks of my body, a few of my per­fectly func­tion­ing or­gans and some­times even my san­ity, but I will not al­low it to steal my life—or my sense of fash­ion, for that mat­ter.

Even though I joke about be­ing a “can­cer­lebrity,” it has given me a very strong pur­pose. And it is the role of a life­time. Whether it’s shar­ing my story, giv­ing a speech or walk­ing the run­way, it all goes to­ward en­sur­ing that can­cer does not win. n

Sabrina Fuoco was pho­tographed wear­ing Pink

Tar­tan at the Four Sea­sons Toronto d|bar. She will make her run­way de­but at the “Well Dressed for Spring” fundraiser for the Well­spring Can­cer

Sup­port Foun­da­tion on Fe­bru­ary 24 at the Bloor Street

Holt Ren­frew in Toronto.

“Fash­ion al­ways puts a smile on my face,” says Fuoco.

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