At 26, Lauren Wakefield heard the diagnosis she was dreading — breast cancer. A young, aspiring wedding photographer, Lauren’s life changed in an instant.
“When I heard I had to get chemo I had a major breakdown,” Wakefield told TODAY.com. “I was terrified.”
Wakefield reached out to her best friend, Sidne Hirsch. The two met in a college photography class and were inseparable since, becoming roommates and backpacking through Europe together.
“Everything just froze,” recalls Hirsch. “I’m closer to Lauren than I am my own sister. It’s like the whole world just stopped.”
It didn’t take long for Hirsch to jump into planning mode. She knew what her friend needed most from her was the perfect kind of support —in whatever form Hirsch could offer.
“We were on a mission after that,” explains Hirsch. “She was going to figure out what to do with the doctor and I was thinking how I could help.”
Hirsch planned on being present at the first treatment and every treatment after that. To make the first one less scary, she wanted to bring snacks and games but also a present for Wakefield to unwrap and make the day a little brighter. While shopping for head scarves, Hirsch wandered into a shoe store and spotted a pair of 5-inch, blue glittery shoes with spikes.
“I thought how depressing to just give her scarves, she’s going to sit in this chair for however long, how nice would it be to look down at these bright sparkly shoes?”
“It was a crazy pair of glittery high heels that no human could walk in, they were ridiculous,” laughed Wakefield. “I knew in those shoes I was going to kick cancer’s ass.”
Lauren wore the shoes to each and every chemo treatment after that — 6 in total. At first, Wakefield said she didn’t realize how important the shoes would become. But each time she put them on, they grew more and more vital to her state of mind and recovery.
“In a weird way they became something I looked forward to, not that you ever really look forward to chemo, but it was this one piece of happiness I had during this crazy time,” said Wakefield.
After two years and a clean bill of health, Wakefield and Hirsch want to offer a little piece of happiness to other women battling cancer. By using the crowd-funding website KickStarter, the pair are trying to launch Healing Heels — a company to manufacture sparkly, crazy, shoes with the sole purpose of supporting other women.
“If you’ve ever been in a cancer center, it’s bland and depressing, it’s not a happy place,” explains Wakefield. “I have a vision of all these women in these chairs with these crazy shoes on and their feet propped up and whether they’re 26 or 66, they’re having a ball in these shoes.”
If they make their goal and start manufacturing the shoes, Wakefield and Hirsch plan on donating a portion of the proceeds to charity, with the hopes of one day becoming their own non-profit. High hopes for high heels — all because of one friend’s gift.
“It just seems like such a small thing, I just bought her a pair of shoes,” says Hirsch. “But if its’ something that can help other people, whether it’s making them feel empowered and strong or sexy or just to give them something pretty to look at while they’re sitting in that chair, that’s success.”
Jamie Farnsworth manages NBC News' "Parent Toolkit." Prior to that she was associate producer at "Rock Center with Brian Williams."