Oprah: I understand—you thought anything could go wrong.
Ralph: Right. When you're a kid, you think you can jump out the window and be okay. But when you get older, you think, "Wait a minute—I can't fly!"
Oprah: Since your illness, how do you decide what to give your time, energy, and money to?
Ralph: When I came out of the hospital, I met a wonderful woman, Nina Hyde, an editor in Washington, D.C., who had breast cancer. She said, "You know, Ralph, you make these wonderful things for the outside—why aren't you taking care of the inside?" So I went to all the fashion designers and said, "Let's do breast cancer," and we raised money to start the Nina Hyde Center in Washington.
Oprah: So your tumor caused you to have sympathy for someone else.
Ralph: Yes—I was very tuned in and emotional about it.
Oprah: Aren't you building a center in Harlem?
Ralph: Yes. I wanted to do more, so I went to [Memorial] Sloan-Kettering [a leading cancer hospital in New York] and met a doctor I was impressed with. He told me, "A lot of women are afraid to leave Harlem when they discover they have breast cancer. They won't come down to Sloan-Kettering because they fear it." I remember when my mother found a lump in her breast and panicked. She didn't know who to talk with or what to do. The world is so small when you don't have choices or you have no one to talk to. I became involved because I felt the emotion of it. You see people's struggle, and you want to do something about it. The center will help people with all forms of cancer work through the process of getting treatment.
Oprah: So once you're diagnosed, there's a whole support system. What will it be called?
Ralph: The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention—it will open in spring on 124th Street and Madison Avenue. I'm very excited about it.
Oprah: That's huge, Ralph. As you look back over the years, can you believe your life?
Ralph: I can't. When I sit back and look at what I have, I can say, "This is great." But when you're dedicated to your work, you've got to be out there working. It doesn't matter if you're very rich or very poor, you still have anxieties.
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