Emory Austin knew people would stop and stare at her pink wig. They’d probably even ask questions.
Fortunately, that was her goal.
Austin, a North Carolina-based professional speaker and breast cancer survivor, delivered the keynote address at Tuesday’s Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon.
She wore a pink wig at the event, which was held at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center and hosted by the Columbus Regional Medical Foundation.
The hair accessory wasn’t a one-time deal. She plans to wear it everywhere and every day this month.
Austin’s wig reflected the equally vibrant message she promoted — be authentic and strive for an extraordinary life.
“Use your voice. Use it well and don’t hold back,” she said while speaking to a crowd that organizers said included 1,055 guests.
Tuesday’s luncheon also honored local breast cancer survivors.
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Lung cancer ranked No. 1, the society reports.
Austin devoted some of her speech specifically to breast cancer, but she also focused on broader character issues.
She encouraged audience members to adopt a new perspective that transforms setbacks into courage-defining moments.
Eying the crowd in her pink wig, she advocated a willingness to break life’s molds.
“Your rarity is a necessity,” Austin said.
Her focus on authenticity inspired many guests, including some members of Northside High School’s Health Occupations Students of America. Twelve students from the group attended the event, chaperoned by health care science teacher Leann Brown.
Northside junior Emily Greer, 16, said Austin reminded her of the importance of having a sense of humor. Northside sophomore McKenzie Hattaway, 15, said Austin’s speech taught her to monitor her health and not panic amid health setbacks.
“Even if there is something wrong, then there is hope,” she said.
Proceeds from the luncheon went toward a Columbus Regional Medical Foundation fund “established to help working, insured women with prohibitively high deductibles and limited coverage for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
UPCOMING WOMEN'S HEALTH EVENTS
Paint the Town Pink Breast Cancer Walk
When: Celebration begins at 7:30 a.m. Walk starts at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 16
Where: Ashley Furniture Store, 6499-B Whittlesey Blvd.
St. Francis Bunco for Breast Cancer
When: 5:30-9 p.m. Oct. 19
Where: St. Anne Catholic Church Visitation Hall, 200 Kay Circle in Columbus
Cost: $35 registration includes T-shirt and dinner
Spirit of Women and Columbus Regional's Girls' Night Out
When: 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Where: RiverMill Event Center, 3715 First Ave.