American supermodel Pat Cleveland 'staying strong' following colon cancer diagnosis

Iconic supermodel Pat Cleveland was rushed to hospital after walking at Paris Fashion Week and underwent emergency surgery after doctors discovered she had colon cancer.

After appearing on the Tommy Hilfiger catwalk in Paris, the famed model, 68 — one of the first African-American models to feature on magazine covers and on the runway — stayed on in Paris, fell ill and was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered colon cancer.

She underwent surgery on March 23 and is in the American Hospital in intensive care. Despite her amazing career, Cleveland cannot afford the treatment — she apparently has no health insurance — and her husband, Paul Van Ravenstein, has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for her treatment, which has so far reached $43,000 of its $150,000 goal.

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Paul writes on the page, “While in Paris this week, Pat was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital where the doctors discovered colon cancer. Pat has had surgery and will remain in Paris recovering until the doctors clear her for travel.

Thankfully, Anna [Pat’s daughter, a model and performer who lives in Paris] has been by Pat’s side throughout, taking great care of her mom. I am headed to Paris this week and hope to have her back home soon so she can begin treatments here in the U.S. Many thanks for your love, support and prayers. We are looking forward to having Pat back to her old self again very soon.”

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US model Pat Cleveland presents a creation during the Laura Biagiotti's women's Fall/Winter 2019/2020 collection fashion show, on February 24, 2019 in Milan.

US model Pat Cleveland presents a creation during the Laura Biagiotti's women's Fall/Winter 2019/2020 collection fashion show, on February 24, 2019 in Milan. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Cleveland’s husband of 35 years, a photographer who focuses on supporting his wife’s career, said, “She is so healthy, she is a vegan, doesn’t drink or smoke, she has had some stomach complaints for a few months, it got a little better but not totally, but when she got to Paris she felt very uncomfortable, her belly was swollen, and the doctor told her to get in a taxi and go to the American Hospital in Paris immediately.

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“A scan found a cancerous tumor blocking her colon, and she went into surgery immediately and they operated on her for two and a half hours.

“This was totally unexpected, but Pat is doing OK, she is staying very strong. She is going to have to undergo chemotherapy after a month, and we are hoping she’ll be home in the US to do that. We have to wait to see what the doctor says about travel for Pat. It’s a shock, how is it possible that this could happen to somebody so healthy? It’s like a left hook, you didn’t see it coming and it hit hard.”

Paul, who lives with his wife in New Jersey, continued, “Pat has had a successful career, but we are not rich, she modeled in the days when there was no big paychecks, no big endorsement deals. It was not big money like some of these models make today. And today, one month you might have ten jobs and another month you might have no jobs at all.

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“Pat has no health insurance, she only has Medicare, which won’t cover anything outside of the country. We didn’t even think about it because Pat has been so healthy. We had no option but to set up a GoFundMe, we have been so grateful for everyone’s support, she’s worked with so many people over her career.”

Pat’s agency Next Model Management did not comment.

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Cleveland — who has worked in the fashion industry for five decades since she was discovered as a teen art student by a Vogue editor who spotted her on the street — first signed with Ford Models and became a favorite of designers including Halston and Karl Lagerfeld. She recently appeared in campaigns together with her daughter Anna, 30, for Marc Jacobs and Lanvin.

On March 3, she was on the Paris catwalk for Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya, who presented her first Tommy collection with a legendary black model line-up that also included Grace Jones and Beverly Johnson.

This article originally appeared in Page Six.