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Lakewood Ranch resident prepares for Men Wear Pink

Scott Kessler continues to raise funds for American Cancer Society three years after his wife's cancer diagnosis.

Lakewood Ranch's Scott Kessler and his wife, Cherri Kessler, continue to raise money for the American Cancer Society three years after Cherri's cancer diagnosis.
Lakewood Ranch's Scott Kessler and his wife, Cherri Kessler, continue to raise money for the American Cancer Society three years after Cherri's cancer diagnosis.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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As Lakewood Ranch’s Scott Kessler walked the runway at last year’s Men Wear Pink fundraiser, he carried a pink rose. 

At the end of the catwalk, he handed the rose to his wife, Cherri Kessler, who went through breast cancer treatment in 2020.

Although Cherri is cancer-free, the Kesslers continue to support the American Cancer Society as their way of giving back to an organization that helped Cherri during her cancer treatment. 

The next opportunity comes Sept. 23 as the 2023 Men Wear Pink Fashion Show will be held at the Macy's Court in the Mall at University Town Center.

It was in February 2020, when Cherri sat anxiously in her doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of her biopsy,

She already knew her mammogram results came back abnormal in December 2019. 

Her diagnosis revealed estrogen positive breast cancer.

Cherri could only describe her diagnosis in one word: heartbreaking. 

Diagnosis was shocking

Scott said the diagnosis was shocking. He had family members who died from different cancers, but he didn’t expect his wife to receive a cancer diagnosis. 

He said as shocking as it was, he had to set aside his feelings to focus on his wife. He wanted to be strong for her and support her in any way possible.

“That was probably the hardest part, to deal with the feelings but yet not show weakness,” he said. 

The challenges of Cherri’s treatment were exacerbated as the COVID-19 pandemic began and hospitals were being inundated. Hospitals also only were allowing essential services. 

“No one could come with me to any appointments,” Cherri said. “I had a lot of friends texting and family FaceTimes. I watched a lot of ‘Sex and the City’ and movies.”

Every text message or FaceTime helped Cherri to feel less alone when she was by herself during her treatments. 

Cherri took every precaution possible during the pandemic so she wouldn’t test positive. She was sure to wear a mask, gloves and other protective gear, and Scott was responsible for running any errand. 

Cherri had two lumpectomy surgeries, four rounds of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation as treatment. If Cherri tested positive for COVID, she wouldn’t have been able to get treatment.

On the day of her second surgery in April 2020, the pandemic almost kept her from her surgery. Cherri said the surgery center at Sarasota Memorial Hospital was closed due to COVID-19 so all surgeries were taking place in the main hospital. The MRI machine was down causing delay after delay. There weren’t enough staff members at the hospital because half of the hospital was shut down due to there not being any elective surgeries.

When she was finally able to have an MRI, which was required before her surgery, it was at least five hours later than her originally scheduled surgery at noon. 

Lakewood Ranch's Scott Kessler sported Harley Davidson attire at last year's Men Wear Pink. This year's he'll wear Robert Graham clothing.
File photo

Cherri said the unknown length of the pandemic, on top of the unknown of her cancer treatment, caused more anxiety. 

Throughout her treatment, she dealt with side effects that incuded nausea and losing her hair.

“Watching her go through it was hard, and not being able to do anything,” Scott said. “I was on the outside looking in trying to be helpful and supportive. It was amazing what everybody helped her with that I couldn’t.”

Given the all-clear

By October 2020, Cherri was given the all-clear, giving the Kesslers a sign of relief. 

Cherri said being told the cancer was gone made her feel that she could go back to her real life. 

“I’m not chained to a 7:30 appointment every single day,” she said. “But then it was always, OK, was it going to come back?”

Each mammogram every six months was nerve wracking. 

Now three years later, she only has her yearly mammogram, and it doesn’t come with as much anxiety. 

Rather than focusing on the next appointment, the Kesslers are concentrating on raising money for the American Cancer Society.

Cherri first became involved with the national nonprofit in 2020 when her friend Michelle Olivo, who battled breast cancer at least three years prior to Cherri, introduced her to the American Cancer Society. 

Olivo helped guide Cherri through the resources the American Cancer Society had to offer, what to expect out of treatment and more. 

“It was like she was holding my hand the whole way,” Cherri said of Olivo.

The Kesslers started raising money for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in 2021. 

Scott was then “volun-told” to participate in Men Wear Pink, Cherri said with a laugh. 

Raising the funds

Every year, Scott designs a shirt to sell to raise money. He also hosts a sporting clays tournament and other events. Last year, Scott raised $26,000. 

“Every little bit helps, and we’re just trying to help so that somebody else doesn’t have to go through what Cherri went through by themselves,” Scott said. 

Lakewood Ranch's Scott Kessler raises thousands for the American Cancer Society as a Real Mean Wear Pink ambassador.
Photo by Juliana Montane Photography

Normally, Scott doesn’t sport pink, but in October, he wears something pink every day in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

“It has a special place in the closet,” Scott said. “The collection has grown. I think I have close to maybe 20 shirts (with pink on it).”

Although all Men Wear Pink ambassadors are raising money for the same cause, Scott said they try to find ways to outdo each other. 

“There’s a little competition, but I think we all give each other ideas and have a good time being together and we’re all supporting the same cause,” Scott said. 

Some ambassadors walk the runway with a themed outfit. Last year, Summerfield’s Jeff Young made his way down the catwalk wearing sunscreen, a visor and a pink floatie around his waist. 

But Scott said he keeps it simple. He’s more focused on not falling off the stage. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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