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Betsey Johnson's Breast Cancer Battle

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Betsey Johnson really does make this world a more beautiful place.

Betsey Johnson

She's the iconic designer with the downtown sense of style. For over 40 years, Betsey Johnson has been rocking the fashion world with her fun, flirty and fabulous clothes. But there's so much more to Betsey than meets the eye. This designing superstar sat down with momlogic to talk about success, secrets and surviving breast cancer.

"I had these boobs in saline, for like ten years. I didn't think about them. I never liked them." Until one morning when Betsey woke up and found one was gone. "It deflated over night and that was OK because it was just salt water in my system. So I went to my doctor and decided to have them both out -- the good one looked just like it did when it was put in, the bad one looked like those mushrooms, those shiitake, really bad-looking, brown, shriveled-up mushrooms. I was so glad to have them both out. In the healing process I noticed scar tissue, and then I saw this little bump next to the scar tissue." That little bump turned out to be cancer.

But instead of leaning on her extended circle of friends and family for support, Betsey decided to keep the news a secret, sharing the information only with her daughter, Lulu. "I decided that I couldn't tell anybody but Lulu -- and she had to swear that she would keep it a secret, because I just couldn't handle it. I had my radiation every morning at 7:30 and nobody knew -- just me and Lulu. I thought about it kind of like a contagious disease -- not so much physically contagious -- but mentally and emotionally contagious. I just thought 'Well, everyone is going to think that I'm just going to die so they won't sell me a fabric anymore.'"

But clearly, Betsey is a survivor in every sense of the word. Not only did she beat breast cancer, but she has made it her mission to help others do so as well. Betsey is a tireless advocate of breast cancer awareness and fundraising programs. "I think it's crucial to be positive -- really really positive. I'll do anything constantly to just to keep the money coming in and to keep young girls and everybody aware. I mean that's all you can do, just bring it up."

It's her devotion to the cause, as well as to her new role as grandma, which makes Betsey the happiest and most fulfilled she's ever been. In fact, the devoted New York City downtown dweller recently sold her beloved Greenwich Village apartment so she could move into the same uptown building where Lulu and granddaughters Layla and Ella live. "It's so great to see your daughter have the life that I always dreamed of. I'm thinking that when I'm with my walker or with my wheelchair how nice it will be to get in to the elevator and press down or up."

But no matter where she lives, Betsey will always be at home on the runway. Each show ends with Betsey's signature cartwheel and now another showstopper as well: a victory lap down the catwalk with her fans cheering from their seats and her adorable granddaughters smiling in her arms. And as we all know, those are the greatest accessories of all.


next: ACK! Beauty Horror Stories!
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