Celebration of Life Fashion Show
Twin sisters Araceli and Angelica Villegas from Soledad will join two dozen other local cancer survivors on Friday as part of the American Cancer Society’s annual Celebration of Life Fashion Show in Monterey. (Contributed)

SOLEDAD — This year marks a special 30-year celebration for the American Cancer Society’s annual Celebration of Life Fashion Show, where local cancer survivors walk the runway as models sharing their cancer journey to inspire others and build community awareness.

The unique fundraiser takes place Friday, April 12, in Monterey. The milestone event pays tribute to the three founders, Shirley Lavorato, Karen Fanoe and Jeri Olivas, while celebrating cancer survivors, honoring lives lost and recognizing the incredible impact the fundraiser has had in the community supporting cancer patients and their families.

Two of the women walking the runway this year share a special bond as fraternal twins.

At the young age of 27, the Soledad sisters never imagined they would also share a cancer diagnosis. Araceli and Angelica Villegas underwent aggressive and potentially life-saving treatment after they were diagnosed with breast cancer and carriers of the BRAC1 gene.

The journey started last year when Araceli was breastfeeding her youngest of two sons and became suspicious of a lump. At first, she brushed aside her concerns, thinking perhaps what she felt was a milk duct. Advanced imaging and a biopsy later confirmed the worst. 

“The first thing I thought when I heard the word cancer is that I’m going to die,” said Araceli Villegas, Celebration of Life model. “When they told me the BRAC gene was generic, I knew my sister had to be tested as well.”

Without any noticeable signs, Angelica’s breast cancer turned out to be even more advanced. The sisters both received medical treatment at Salinas Valley Health Cancer Center of Excellence, which included chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and a double mastectomy.

Celebration of Life Fashion Show
Local cancer survivors walk the runway during the 2023 Fashion Show finale. (Contributed)

The Villegas twins share their difficult cancer journey to help raise awareness about the disease, early detection and listening to one’s body when they feel something isn’t right. They join two dozen other local cancer survivors on Friday as part of the 30-year celebration.

“The American Cancer Society has done so much to help support us and other cancer patients,” said Angelica Villegas. “We want to give back and hope to inspire others to support the cause and the important impact the Cancer Society has on the community, cancer research and patients like us.”  

The 30-year celebration takes place as the American Cancer Society projects the United States will see more than 2 million new cancer diagnosis in 2024 — a record high. Over the years, national data has shown diagnosis rates are rising among people younger than 50. From 2000 to 2019, the rate among this group jumped nearly 13%.

Since its inception, the afternoon gala event has raised more than $2 million. With the help of generous sponsors, local businesses and individuals, the Celebration of Life hopes to raise more funds and awareness at Friday’s event, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Monterey Marriott.

The show is sold out, but the community can still donate and bid on auction items. Go to MtyFashionShow.GiveSmart.com or call 831-621-5444 for more information.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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