For Laura Gromis, family has been at the center of her life for as long as she can remember. She grew up with her grandparents right down the street, so when her maternal grandmother, Dawn, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 55, it came as a shock. Receiving a single mastectomy and hormone therapy, the cancer went into remission, only to return later, requiring a second mastectomy and further treatment. It was at this time that Laura’s grandparents came to live with her family full time. The time spent together strengthened the family’s bond even further: “they were our only close family, so to us they were everything.”
Laura reflects on how her grandmother’s spirits through treatment remained high. At Huntington Hospital, where she was receiving treatment, Dawn volunteered to support other patients by teaching them crafts like knitting to keep them occupied during treatment. On her off time, she hunted for wigs that would be most comfortable, even driving to LA at one point to snag the next best look. Dawn remained open and honest about her treatment, so Laura and her brother were well aware of the realities of cancer: “she was living with us, so it was impossible to not see the effects the treatments were having on her.”
Eventually the cancer metastasized and when Laura was 14, her grandmother, only 67 at the time, passed away. It was a devastating loss, still felt today: “I’m a mother now and my mother is approaching the age when her mother passed. It is really sad to think about.” Though BRCA negative, Laura notes that losing her grandparents and then seeing her own parents struggle with their health (her father a brian tumor and mother Crohn’s disease) means “we value family so much more because we have experienced what loss is.” Indeed, photos of her grandmother scatter her home and she makes sure her child hears stories about Dawn’s life.
In all, Dawn’s legacy is clear in how Laura and her brother live their lives: “we do everything together- my grandparents were a part of everything for us and we do that now with our parents and our children.” It’s why Laura is so excited to hit the runway to honor her grandmother’s legacy because she knows her grandmother would be finding any way to support the cancer community and in honor of that spirit, Laura’s goal has become “seeing what we can do to help other people who are suffering from a loss and celebrate those who made it through.”