Fighting cancer with color, one pair of shoes at a time

By Lisa Carlin, Founder, Poppies with Purpose

At just 38, while living in Boston with my husband and two young girls, I was shocked and devastated to receive a breast cancer diagnosis. After my diagnosis, I faced a double mastectomy, eight doses of chemotherapy and six weeks of daily radiation.

I had to really dig deep to get through that dark time, so I turned to my closet and pulled out my hot pink ballet flats and decided to wear them to my treatments. It gave me courage and bravery while the bright pink color lifted my spirits and could always spark a conversation with other patients and my nurses and doctors. It connected us.

When my own personal cancer battle was finally in the rear view, I kept circling back to one thought—what if I could brighten up other cancer patients’ lives with similar, colorful shoes?

I spent my career surrounded by creative artists and interior designers, so when a friend connected me with Ann Williams, a London-born footwear designer, I was off and running. Ann helped me bring this idea to life and start what is now known as Poppies with Purpose.

The inspiration for the name comes from the poppy pattern on my grandmother’s housecoat, which my mom made into a quilt to comfort me during my cancer treatments. That same 1950s pattern is now printed on the duster bag we package and deliver each pair of Poppies in.

The first color of ‘Poppies,’ as they are affectionately referred to, were manufactured in the signature hot pink for breast cancer, but I’ve since introduced a navy version for colorectal cancer and a tangerine pair for kidney cancer and leukemia. It has been my utmost pleasure to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Prevent Cancer Foundation to work toward a world where cancer is preventable, detectable and beatable for all.

Poppies shoes make a wonderful gift symbolizing strength and never walking alone to the patients themselves, and their family, friends, care givers, and even colleagues often purchase and wear Poppies to show support and solidarity. 

Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a very isolating experience. I like to say that Poppies were designed to bring courage, color and connection to the lives of patients fighting the very same battle that I did. In fact, printed on the inside of the right shoe of every pair, wearers will see a daily reminder to: “Live each day with a pop of color.”


$10 of every shoe sold using the code preventcancer will be donated to the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Learn more and purchase your own pair of Poppies at