Taylor Burton had shoulder-length hair before she started chemotherapy treatments for leukemia almost two years ago. • She first cut her hair shorter when it started coming out in the sink. Then she spent a few days in the hospital. The last of her hair came out in the shower. • Taylor, 15, looked in the mirror and decided she liked what she saw. After accessorizing with some big hoop earrings, a little mascara and some lip gloss, she was good to go. • "If you go bald, you should flaunt what you have," she said. • The Riverview High School student is one of 12 girls participating in the Pediatric Cancer Foundation's 11th annual Fashion Funds the Cure runway show in Tampa on Feb. 22. • Now on the road to recovery, she still earns praise for the courage she displayed in last year's show.
Taylor and several other teenage girls in the show spent a recent Sunday afternoon at Neiman Marcus at International Plaza, along with their moms, to choose outfits for the show and get their nails, hair and makeup done.
Taylor's mother, April Sinkfield, is excited to see her daughter walk in the show again this year.
"Last year she was new to cancer. It was a new diagnosis," Sinkfield said.
Finding out Taylor had cancer was devastating, she said, and thrust them into an unfamiliar world.
"You always see where cancer has affected other children," she said. "When it's your child, it hits home in different ways."
This year, Taylor is in remission and will finish treatment in December. Walking in the show this year is a celebration, Sinkfield said.
"She's walking for herself, and she's walking for the girls who are newly diagnosed," she said.
The show also gives Taylor the chance to explore her love for fashion. She wants to be a model and likes putting together different looks.
Right now she's into sporty, versatile looks. But sometimes she goes for a preppy look. Other times it's girly, or elegant.
"But I always have to have this," she said, pointing a red nail to the shiny gloss on her lips.
She got her love of fashion from her mother, who always had a hand in the outfits worn by her and her four siblings.
Taylor always liked what her mom put her in, and all the siblings still turn to Mom for fashion advice. Fashion is something fun they've been able to share, Sinkfield said.
Modeling isn't Taylor's only goal. She also wants to help others. She hopes to start her own nonprofit organization someday to help other people dealing with cancer.
When a friend diagnosed with cancer struggled, Taylor made her a care basket full of things to cheer up. The friend is now cancer-free, but Taylor wants to start a nonprofit group that would give people things that can make them feel more at home when they're in the hospital, show them "they have someone by their side," she said.
She and her mother know firsthand how important that support is. Meeting others going through the same thing through the Pediatric Cancer Foundation was like meeting family, Sinkfield said.
"I've learned so much from so many of these moms," she said. "Hopefully I've served as much of an inspiration to them as they have to me."
That shared spirit among the children and their families is part of what makes the show special, said Nancy Crane, executive director of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
When children are diagnosed, "your world changes, your friends change and your family changes," she said. "What I see are relationships building."
The runway show is one of several large events the foundation holds each year to raise money for its research efforts. The foundation works with doctors in 13 hospitals around the country to get kids into clinical trials. It currently has four Phase I clinical trials open, and a new lab at Moffitt Cancer Center. It costs between $15,000 and $30,000 per child per trial, Crane said.
"All these events will help us fund this research," Crane said. "We're taking the bull by the horns and funding new trials."
But at the pampering day at Neiman Marcus, there's less talk of treatments and research, and more of nail polish and new shoes.
For now, the girls aren't cancer patients.
They're just girls.
Stylists guide them around the store to help them pick out outfits for the show. Taylor tries on white pants, first pairing them with a leopard print top. Then she tries a bright yellow top, all the while asking for her mom's opinion.
She poses for pictures, and then goes off to get her hair done.
"I'm excited to get out there and walk," she said.
Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected]