Giuliana and Bill Rancic, stars of the Style Network reality show “Giuliana & Bill,” brought a message of hope to the 870 people who attended Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s 22nd annual All Star Night Gala on Saturday in Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Giuliana Rancic, an entertainment journalist and author who had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011, received the Gilda Radner Courage Award for sharing her cancer battle with the public.
In an interview before the gala, Giuliana – wearing a metallic, lacy top by British designer Ted Baker, a black miniskirt and a pair of sky-high faux lizard shoes that were given to her by the singer Fergie – said she was flattered to receive the award and happy to be able to use the couple’s show and public appearances to encourage young women to get mammograms and do breast self-exams.
“I am just trying to get the word out to let women, especially young women, know that it happened to me at 36 years old with no family history, and if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone,” she said. “It’s very important to me to get out there and educate women, especially young women, about the importance of early prevention and detection.”
The couple, who have spoken publicly about their battles with infertility, revealed her breast cancer diagnosis in an appearance on the “Today” show last October.
“It would have been very easy for her to say, ‘You know what, I am going to lock myself in a room, we’re not going to tell anyone, and we’re just going to get through this very quietly,’” said Bill Rancic, who won the first season of “The Apprentice” in 2004. “No one would have ever known. She chose a different path, probably a more challenging path. I remember the day we went on the “Today” show and shared her story with the world, and I thought, ‘That’s going to be her real legacy,’ not interviewing the celebrities on the red carpet at the Oscars and the Emmys and the Grammys. It will be the impact she had on all the young women who are her fans, who are now getting checked, who are giving self-exams, who are telling their friends to do the same. That’s an incredible gift.”
After a miscarriage and another fertility treatment that did not result in pregnancy, last year the Rancics went to a new doctor who required a full physical exam, including a mammogram, before any treatment. Nobody expected the tests to find anything, said Giuliana, but the mammogram – her first ever – detected the cancer. She first had a lumpectomy and radiation, then, two months later, had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
“The way Giuliana has handled this, I couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Bill, placing a hand on his wife’s knee. “She has been so brave, so determined to turn a negative into a positive. I know how tough it was. Grace, elegance, bravery, stoic – those are the words that come to mind.”
For her part, Giuliana praised her husband and the other caregivers, whom she called “silent heroes.” She said, “The husbands, the good ones, the caretakers, boyfriends and family members don’t get the credit they deserve. I wouldn’t have known what to do if Bill wasn’t there.”
The two flew into town from Chicago a few hours before for the gala and planned to fly home afterward for the scheduled christening today of their son, Edward Duke Rancic, who turned 2 months old Oct. 29.
Before leaving the ballroom, which was decorated with an international theme, including a tall, lighted Eiffel Tower, Bill checked out the silent auction items and placed several bids, including $500 on six bottles of Hundred Acres wine and $450 on six assorted bottles of wine.
Besides Giuliana, two other people were honored at the gala. Dr. Adekunle “Kunle” Odunsi received the Thomas B. Tomasi Award for his leadership, impact and vision in helping Roswell Park seek new immunotherapies. Kali Korzelius, who lost her battle with cancer on Sept. 26 at age 27, received the Katherine Anne Gioia Inspiration Award for her work in launching Roswell Park’s Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer program.
The gala is the second biggest fundraiser for Roswell Park, after the Ride for Roswell.