The 27th annual Power of Pink! luncheon on Thursday allowed East Texans to take a break from work, spend time learning about breast cancer and explore new tools for self-empowerment.

“Believe you me, it would be so much easier to just tie on a pink ribbon, but we at CHI Stl. Luke’s Health-Memorial wanted to take things a few steps farther,” Tina Alexander-Sellers, CHI’s marketing director, said.

“We wanted to create for you, some me time. No matter what your issue — we’ve all got something. … Forget for just a moment and enjoy this me time.”

Merlyna Valentine spoke to attendees about the trials and tribulations she faced, especially after being hospitalized and given a 10% chance of survival from sepsis in 2007. She lost both hands and both legs below the knee, but returned to a leadership role at a Louisiana elementary school.

“You can’t come from the brink of death to where I am, today, thriving in my new normal — my new life, and do that alone,” she said.

The experience taught her that she needed passion, perseverance and purpose to make her life worth it, she said.

Valentine said so many focus on the day they’re born and the day they die. She said they need to focus on that dash in the middle to make life worth it, rather than just living for the past or the next day.

“When I think about what it is that I get to do every day, the fact that sharing my story could save someone’s life, or plant seeds of hope in someone that might feel hopeless, I can’t help but wake up and feel happy,” she said.

The 11th annual Art Bra Contest was another highlight of the event, with four men strutting their stuff while showing off artistic takes on bras.

“The Art Bra was created years ago when a woman, who lost her mother to breast cancer, found buttons and trinkets among her mother’s belongings,” Dr. Sid Roberts, the director of the Temple Cancer Center, said.

That woman used those to create an artistic reproduction of a bra. The Power of Pink! has since hosted the event to further raise awareness.

Matt Clark, CHI’s emergency room director, wore “Treasure the Ta-Ta’s” — the bra created by the CHI Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit. It won first for the people’s choice awards, winning a lifetime supply of Whataburger.

Cody Lindsey, an exercise physiologist at CHI, modeled “Nice Rack!’’, the first-place winning bra created by Amanda Davis. She won a $100 gift card from Abeldt’s Gaslight Pharmacy and four tickets to the 2020 Power of Pink! luncheon.

Jess Huff’s email address is jess.huff@lufkindailynews.com.