Actress Kate Walsh, Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach and supporters of the 5 Under 40 Foundation came together for their For Her Future gala, which aims to ensure young women diagnosed with breast cancer or the BRCA gene have a fulfilling and long future ahead of them. The gala, which was held on Wednesday, April 3rdat Gotham Hall in New York City, is the foundation’s largest annual fundraising event, and raises funds for the organization’s mission to provide medical, wellness, beauty and educational services to women under 40 who have been diagnosed with the disease.
The imposing yet intimate Gotham Hall which was transformed into a spectacular space for the evening was attended by even more spectacular and strong women who are bravely fighting their battles. Guests, including Andrew Shue and Geraldo Rivera, mingled and munched on passed hors d’oeuvres, bid on silent auction items ranging from jewelry to Broadway show tickets and took pictures on the red carpet.
Amy Robach, co-host of 20/20, hosted the meaningful event and spoke about her own journey since being diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago while filming a live segment for Good Morning America. She even shared a video of her realizing her strength and resilience by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with family and friends to celebrate the anniversary of her remission.
“I decided to go big and I asked some of my friends and some of my family to do something I have always dreamed about to celebrate and that was to climb the summit of Kilimanjaro. Cancer doesn’t just affect a patient, it affects the entire family, everyone who loves that breast cancer patient.”
Robach, who is living her life to the fullest, awarded Kate Walsh with the Visionary Award for her tireless work encouraging women to fight for proper healthcare and being their own advocate.
Walsh might be a public figure known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and most recently Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, but the TV actress spoke of her more personal behind the scenes battle. Walsh explained how she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor after having to convince doctors to give her an MRI when they suggested her symptoms were simply brought on by depression. She also remembered the reality of what it was like when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer over two decades ago and discussed how she was determined to decide for herself what her recovery and life would look like post-surgery.
“When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer I was actually living in New York at the time and she said yeah, I’m gonna have a double mastectomy and I’m like wait, what? It seemed really extreme to just have two breasts entirely removed and she had been a nurse practitioner for many years. She’s like I’ve seen so many women who wait and wait so this was her decision. I was so naïve at the time I was like hold up, they take the whole thing? In my limited imagination I didn’t understand they even take the nipples. She’s 85 now and thriving, she just sent me a picture with her dog on the beach.”
While she was honored to be recognized at the gala amongst so many inspiring women – and men – who she referred to as thrivers, she explained:
“I felt like I hadn’t done anything, I just got a diagnosis and kept going. Up until four years ago, I thrived on being busy and felt so blessed to be succeeding in a career of my choosing. Right before I was diagnosed I had just produced and starred in a show and it was incredible but exhausting and it had just been canceled and I was really tired and I thought I burned myself out. I was working really intensely, I was remodeling a house. My assistant who had never known me not working just thought maybe she’s just depressed cause she’s not working. Driving in LA I kept veering to the right, and as women, we make excuses. I played a doctor on TV but I never really went to the doctor. I thought oh, what is this, and then I started losing words and then I thought maybe I went through early menopause. Again, my boyfriend at the time and my friends said you’re depressed but I just didn’t feel right, I started getting shooting pains. My boyfriend found a great neurologist at Cedar’s and I went in and explained my symptoms and he said listen, you know, you’re a woman in your 40s, your going through menopause, you’re not working, and he slid over a prescription for Zoloft and I said thank you so much, but before I commit to a very high dose of Zoloft, I would like an MRI. Right after the MRI the radiologist called me in and told me I had a brain tumor. I was like hold on, I just left my body, and then she showed me the X-Ray and it was a lot of swelling. Three days later I was in surgery having the tumor removed. It was on the heels of Bo Biden passing from brain cancer and he was someone who I knew a little bit.”
Walsh also reflected on the impact the diagnosis has had on her life when she said “it really was a true gift what that tumor brought me. It slowed me down in the best way. I’m gonna travel more, I’m only gonna work on jobs that I love with people that I love. It changed the way that I approach life. I changed my meditation practice. I do a lot less, I listen to my body, I’m very humble. It was very important for me to have my own experience in recovery cause I had no idea what it would look like. I wanted to have my own private recovery. When I did decide to go public and talk about it I wanted to make sure it was in the right away. I don’t think I did anything but survive and thrive.”
A lively live auction featuring trips and other priceless experiences, plus a live DJ and decadent desserts were all part of the special gala, but a very special young woman really stole the show. Morgan Mitchell, who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which spread to her liver, shared her story of how the same day she noticed a lump, her boyfriend proposed to her. Undergoing experimental treatment while planning a wedding might not sound ordinary, but neither is Morgan – she’s an extraordinary example of what fighting cancer looks like. She continues to inspire women and even brought the attendees battling cancer onto the stage, which had the whole audience on their feet with cheers and applause. After all, the evening was about celebrating survivorship and strength.
Since 2012, 5 Under 40 has supported over 500 women in the New York and New Jersey area and continues to help fierce women fight for their lives with dignity and respect, which is why they focus not just on providing treatments, but ensuring the women are treated to beauty treatments so they can battle boldly and beautifully.