Many people’s knitting efforts focus on jumpers, scarves, children’s clothes and blankets. But, one breast cancer survivor is knitting hundreds of woolly breasts for women who’ve had mastectomies due to breast cancer.
A video about Sharon’s knitting efforts have gone viral. In the video above, which has over 18 million views, she explains why knitting breasts is so important to her.
Sharon had breast cancer five years ago and didn’t want reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy. Sharon and her team of fellow knitters who she calls “knockerettes” knit around 300 breasts a month, in an effort to provide lighter and more comfortable post-surgery protheses than the stick-ons offered by the NHS.
“My reason and purpose is to make life better for people in the throes of cancer,” Sharon says.
“Breast cancer isn’t pink and it isn’t fluffy. It’s a nasty, horrible disease that changes people’s lives,” she continues.
Tattoo artist David Allen has spent the past few years learning these complex intricacies. In that time, he’s adorned several dozen cancer survivors with chest tattoos of plants, flowers and branches to give their scars new meaning and the women who bear them a newfound sense of beauty and agency.
“Theyve gone through a process where theyve lost control,” says Allen. “The beauty is that they’re in control of this.”
Allen, who is based in Chicago, laid out his philosophy and technique in an article published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. After a profile of his work appeared in the Chicago Tribune last fall, the journal invited him to write about his work for its regular column about the intersection of the arts and medicine.
“Theyve gone through a process where theyve lost control. The beauty is that they’re in control.”
“The women with breast cancer with whom I work share a feeling that theyve been acted upon by cancer, the health industrial complex and its agents, the sequelae of their treatments,” he writes.
Most of Allen’s clients have never been tattooed. He spends a lot of time learning about their cancer and its scars. The conversation is deeply personal and often turns to whether or not they felt heard by the doctors who treated them. Allen believes his role is to listen and understand what aspects of a woman’s scar she wants to cover and develop a design that is both practical and symbolic.
When women look at their scarring, which include the removal of the nipple and reconstructive surgery, he says they often use the same word: Frankenstein.
“They [feel] pieced together,” Allen says. “Its beautiful we can do it, its amazing we can do it. But the identity is lost.”
That identity can be wrapped up in sexuality or femininity. For mothers who breastfed, the loss of a nipple or breast can erase a connection they felt to their children.
The way Allen uses botanical imagery has a few advantages. First, it doesn’t require outlines filled in by color. Instead, he describes his technique as pointillism that is both efficient and minimally traumatic. A typical tattoo often relies on 11 or more needles to fill in outlines with solid color. Allen draws a hard outline with just five to nine needles, and uses a rotary machine that doesn’t emit the same drilling noise as a standard tattoo machine.
Images of flowers, plants or trees can also be easily revised over time, particularly if a woman needs to have additional surgeries or is re-diagnosed with cancer. If there’s new scarring, he can add another leaf or branch to cover it, whereas geometric shapes or text aren’t so forgiving.
But the symbolism of covering a scar with images from nature, he says, is its own form of healing.
“Even if the land has been ravaged, life comes back,” Allen says, describing his own philosophy that has been complemented in some unique way by every woman he’s tattooed.
One woman wanted roses because her grandmother grew them. Another woman who gardened said one of her plants began to die when she was diagnosed with cancer. A tattoo of that flower was her way of bringing it back to life.
“[T]he symbolism of quiet, inexorable change and growth evoked by flowering plants fits where the women are in their journey through and away from their illness,” Allen writes in the essay.
“Everyone sees themselves so differently. I want to know your story and I want to hear it.”
Some women who are interested in a tattoo aren’t ready for one, and Allen recognizes that. When he touched a woman’s chest and she began crying, because she hadn’t been touched by a man in years, Allen decided it wasn’t the time to begin his work.
His chest tattoos cost between $800 and $2,000. Each project, he says, requires empathetically partnering with a breast cancer survivor looking to assert control over life and body.
Allen’s JAMA essay seemed to encourage clinicians, who may deliver diagnoses over the phone or spend just 10 or 15 minutes with a patient at every appointment, to think of their patients as partners deserving of compassion not just medical treatment.
“Everyone sees themselves so differently,” he says. “I want to know your story and I want to hear it. That right there is the crux for me it’s the empathy.”
But when Cristinacce went along to get her tattoo, little did she know that she’d end up falling in love.
Cristinacce wanted to get a tattoo to hide some of the scars she’d gained after her surgery.
“A logical thought was to tattoo the parts of my body I didnt like to look at, and developed the idea of sunflowers and poppies running up one side from my thigh, over my ribs, up to my reconstructed breast and spilling over onto my back,” said Cristinacce.
“What I didnt bargain for was falling in love with the tattoo artist who made the design for me, but when you have had cancer you take life by the horns,”she continued.
“We started dating six months after we first met, and a year later, Shane moved in with me and my children,” Cristinacce said.
Cristinacce said that having cancer has changed her completely as a person.
“I used to have quite low self-esteem, but I am far more confident now and have a far more positive outlook on life,” she says.
“Now I feel people will like me or not like me, and that I can do anything I want to.”
Designer Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the visual signs and symptoms of breast cancer using the unlikeliest of devices lemons.
According to the NHS, lumps are the most common sign of breast cancer, but other symptoms can be seen rather than felt.
Ellsworth Beaumont has created a series of images using lemons showing things like indentations, skin sores, dimpling, bumps and redness or heat.
According to Breast Cancer Now, visual signs can include skin dimpling or puckering, the thickening ofthe breast tissue, redness and heat, an inverted nipple, an unusual discharge and a rash or crusting.
The images from the campaign have reached 7.3 million people in three Facebook posts, according to an update posted on Facebook.
Ellsworth Beaumont’s personal connection to breast cancer prompted her initial research into the symptoms of breast cancer. “Both my grandmothers died from breast cancer. And when the second one died, I thought I should know more about cancer than I do,” explained Ellsworth Beaumont. But her research left her with more questions than she’d had before she even started.
She wanted to know what to look and feel for in a self-examination and when to get a mammogram. But she couldn’t find a leaflet or website that presented those answers in a simple and easy-to-understand format. As a designer, she wanted to visualise breast cancer awareness in an interesting and informative way.
When Ellsworth Beaumont began delving into her research, she discovered the barriers that exist when communicating with the public about breast cancer. Ellsworth Beaumont discovered that a fear of talking about breasts, the censorship of breast images, and adult illiteracy are obstacles in the dissemination of information about the visual signs of breast cancer.
“A lot of campaigns for breast cancer use texts because using images of breasts is difficult due to censorship,” says Ellsworth Beaumont.
Ellsworth Beaumont knew she needed to find a “breast substitute” if she were to create any illustrations pertaining to breasts.
“I thought about all kinds of euphemisms jugs, melons. But I needed something that hadn’t been used before,” says Ellsworth Beaumont.
“The lemon came up. It looks just like a breast, it even has skin and pores and a nipple. Its interior also looks like the interior anatomy of a breast,” she continued.
She spent hours in libraries and doctors’ offices learning about the signs and symptoms of the disease research that was put to use in her campaign. When Ellsworth Beaumont went along to get a mammogram, she also found out from a doctor that cancerous lumps feel hard and immovable something she feels is akin to a lemon seed.
“The lemons are a really friendly image. They’re yellow, cheerful, not like the sombre campaigns we’re used to,” says Ellsworth Beaumont.
“I think the reason why it’s gone so viral is because people can look at the images without having to read anything. In one minute people can learn all symptoms of breast cancer without feeling like they’re being educated.”
Ellsworth Beaumont hopes that people will use the images to educate themselves, share the posters with other women and donate to the campaign so that women who aren’t on social media can benefit from the images.
LONDON Cancer can leave survivors feeling as if their bodies are no longer their own.
After breast cancer surviver Sue Cook reached her five year remission hurdle, she wanted to do something to reclaim her body, something that would show cancer doesn’t always have to leave the last mark.
“It had always been my choice not to wear prostheses and it was also my choice not to have reconstruction,” Cook told Mashable.
“I decided the a tattoo would transform my scars into art. Now, every morning I can wake up to see a beautiful piece of body art,” said the 62-year-old art teacher from Wrightington, near Wigan.
Cook was diagnosed in 2009 with aggressive, inflammatory locally-advanced breast cancer and given a 40% chance of surviving the next five years of her life.
After consulting with her surgeon and oncologist, it was decided she would have a mastectomy to remove her right breast and therefore reduce the risk of recurrence, and she was later advised to have a mastectomy to remove her left breast.
Cook sees her tattoo as a celebration of the “new me” and her victory over cancer.
“Although a life-saving necessity, a mastectomy could be seen as something quite brutal. After all, cutting away a breast often results in women feeling less feminine. And, like any other amputation it can be seen as disfiguring,” Cook continued.
However, Cook didn’t want to put her body or mind through an extensive reconstruction process.
“I had already lived through a big enough battle, now was the time to acknowledge that fight. It could be seen as a form of vanity I suppose, but it also represents survival,” said Cook.
Cook had travelled to India with students and had loved the artwork she’d seen during the trip, particularly mandalas circular figures representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
“I wanted to almost recreate the feeling I used to get when I wore beautiful lace underwear. Many women will be able to relate to that feeling, it gives a boost of confidence its like a hidden secret, an inner smile,” Cook continued.
While the tattoo initially only began as a chest piece, Cook loved it so much that she wanted to extend it onto her shoulders so she could choose to show as much or as little as she liked.
“This was me making a decision for myself about my body. It is empowering and gives me a feeling of strength,” says Cook.
“To me it is a thing of beauty and every morning when I see it, its like its for the first time. It puts a smile on my face,” Cook continued.
Cook is holding an art auction to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Image: SafariSeat; LifeStraw; The Peepoo Toilet; Mariko Products
Getting to the root of poverty means solving various issues along the way, and inventors are up for the challenge.
Poverty isn’t just inadequate access to income it manifests in a lack of access to health services, education and vital goods. It can also lead to societal instability, allowing sexism, ableism, classism and racism to flourish. And every day, innovators create new gadgets and other solutions with the world’s poor in mind.
Here are 16 ingenious innovations helping to alleviate poverty-related inequalities for developing regions across the globe.
1. The Shoe That Grows
Children are notorious for quickly outgrowing clothing and shoes, much to the frustration of parents who are constantly replacing hardly-worn items with larger sizes. Growth spurts are especially a challenge in developing nations, where money for worn or outgrown items is scarce.
The Shoe That Grows is a simple, adjustable shoe that children can wear for years, capable of expanding five sizes through a series of notches and snaps. The shoe generally fits a child’s foot from age 5 to 9, helping to curb foot injuries and cases of soil-transmitted diseases and parasites. A concept first conceived almost a decade ago, The Shoe That Grows is making an impact in developing regions around the world where the nonprofit delivers donated shoes to children and families.
2. Life Saving Dot
In rural India, thousands of women are estimated have iodine deficiency, which has been linked to breast cancer, fibrocystic breast disease and pregnancy complications. But the Life Saving Dot, an iodine-rich variation on a traditional bindi, is helping provide women with the vital mineral.
The dot, which is worn between a woman’s eyebrows just like a bindi, delivers a wearer with the recommended daily amount of iodine. The Life Saving Dot only costs 10 rupees or 16 cents for a packet of 30, fitting the budgets of women in rural India.
3. Safari Seat
Wheelchairs are essential devices for many people, but in rural, developing areas with rough terrain and few roads, traditional wheelchairs aren’t always practical or even usable.
SafariSeat is a low-cost, all-terrain wheelchair designed to be manufactured and maintained in poor countries, creating a self-sustaining product. The innovation is made of bicycle parts, and the device is propelled forward by hand levers and durable wheels. The seat is projected to start production in Kenya in the coming months.
In developing nations, milk is an important source of income and nutrition for poor families. But transporting milk safely and easily with traditional open milk pails comes with spillage, spoilage and an increased risk of contamination.
Mazzi, a durable, 10-liter plastic container designed with a wide mouth for collection, solves these issues by providing a safe and affordable way to collect and transport milk. The container is also easy to clean, with a specially designed funnel attachment that helps eliminate spilling.
5. NIFTY Cup
When an infant in a developing country is unable to nurse, they’re at risk of severe malnutrition or even death. NIFTY cup is solving this issue in rural areas of Africa.
Developed over five years, the NIFTY cup was designed with a spout that makes collected milk easy to drink by infants with cleft palates or other related issues that prevent proper latching. The cup, which is reusable and costs only $1 to create, has already been credited with preventing starvation of infants in poor African communities.
In developing areas without electricity, soaring temperatures can leave huts unbearably hot. Eco-Cooler, a low-cost cooling system created from recycled plastic bottles, helps solve the issue by drawing cool air into homes.
The cooler is made of halved plastic bottles on a board, which is then installed like a window. When in place, each bottle’s neck compresses the hot breeze, cooling it down and dropping temperatures inside a hut as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rural communities in Bangladesh have implemented the environmentally friendly solution.
7. Luck Iron Fish
Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world, affecting an estimated 3.5 billion people. It can be especially devastating in developing nations, where nutritional needs are often unmet. Iron deficiency alone can lead to anemia, low energy and difficulty concentrating.
Lucky Iron Fish is an iron, fish-shaped object that families can place in a pot of boiling water prior to cooking to enrich vegetables with additional iron. The company works on a one-to-one donation scale, allowing individuals in developed nations to buy their own fish while simultaneously donating one to a family in need.
More than 1 million babies die on the day of their birth every year. A staggering 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing nations, where hypothermia is a common cause of death in premature and low-weight infants.
Embrace Warmer is essentially an infant sleeping bag, helping to regulate a baby’s body temperature during their vulnerable first days. The award-winning innovation is reusable, low-cost and requires no electricity, making it ideal for poor communities around the globe. Over 200,000 infants have used the life-saving blanket so far.
About 783 million people or 11 percent of the world’s population lack access to improved sources of drinking water. Drinking contaminated water can lead to devastating disease and illness. It’s estimated that every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.
LifeStraw makes drinking contaminated water safer, which can be a game-changer in poor regions where water access is minimal. The straw-like device uses a simple filtration system made of specially designed cloth to render water safe to drink.
The company not only provides straws to communities in need for individual use, but also donates larger filtration systems to poor communities around the globe for community use.
10. The XO Laptop
Education and learning are universal desires for today’s youth. But poor communities don’t always have the means to give children the comprehensive education they deserve.
The XO Laptop is helping to fill that gap. The small, low cost computer is highly durable and features a powerful screen that can be read in harsh sunlight. It has built-in wireless internet so kids can connect to information around the world.
The tech solution is specifically designed for children in developing nations, hoping to give youth access to self-empowered education. XO Laptops have been donated to more than 2.4 million children in several countries, such as Peru, Kenya, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Lack of access to menstrual products has devastating impacts on women and girls in developing nations. The inability to cope with menstruation often keeps girls out of school, with girls in Kenya missing an average of five days of school per month due to periods. Improper menstruation sanitation also has devastating health impacts, with 70 percent of all reproductive diseases in India caused by poor menstrual hygiene.
Flo, a simple, reusable menstrual hygiene kit, provides a solution for women and girls in developing nations to care for their bodies. The low-cost kit includes reusable pads, a wearable pouch to carry them and a washer-dryer container for improved cleanliness.
Cooking food safely with limited resources is something many poor families in rural areas struggle with every day. Using stoves or open fires for long periods of time without proper ventilation can cause sickness or even death. Every year, household smoke inhalation from meal preparation contributes to more than 4 million deaths globally.
Wonderbag is a reusable, zero-energy slow cooker that drastically cuts down on the time needed for food to cook on a stove or fire. Once ingredients are brought to a boil using traditional methods, a pot can be placed in a Wonderbag, where it continues to cook for up to 12 hours.
The company is distributing the innovation to regions in Africa, helping families cut down on cooking times in favor of a more sustainable method.
For poor women and children in rural areas, collecting water can be a physically demanding and dangerous task. But the Hippo Roller, a water collection drum designed to roll along rough terrain, is allowing those who collect water to do so safely and effectively.
The Hippo Roller lets women collect enough water to sustain a family for a full day during daylight hours, when there is less risk of harassment and sexual violence on the walk to a water source. The drum also reduces the risk of injury, allowing women to roll the hefty drum instead of carrying a heavy, smaller pail on their head. More than 500,000 rollers have been distributed across 20 countries over the past several years.
In emergency situations and during childbirth, blood transfusions are often necessary to save a person’s life. But in poor nations, access to a safe, reliable blood supply is relatively rare, leading to preventable deaths each year.
The Hemafuse, from Sisu Global Health, takes the donation and storage barriers out of blood transfusions, recycling a person’s own blood back into their body. The low-cost device acts like a large syringe, collecting blood and filtering it internally to remove clots and other particulates. The blood can then be deposited into a blood bag, where it can be pumped back into a patient’s body.
15. The Peepoo Toilet
About 1 in 3 people or nearly 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to a toilet. Managing human waste is a massive issue in developing nations, with improper sanitation partially responsible for the spread of deadly disease. Each year, poor sanitation contributes to an estimated 700,000 child deaths from diarrhea.
Putting aside its giggle-inducing name, The PeePoo Toilet is a vital way for people in developing nations to use the restroom safely, especially when they have a contagious disease. The slim, biodegradable bag is used by an individual in the absence of a toilet. The bag sanitizes human excrement, turning the contents of the bag into fertilizer in about a month.
The PeePoo Toilet, however, is a single-use solution, meaning it may not be practical for every time someone needs to use the restroom. Nevertheless, it’s providing an innovative, safe way to prevent the spread of disease in the absence of improved sanitation.
16. Jet injections
Vaccines and immunizations are crucial in curbing the impacts of diseases and illnesses around the world. But safely administering a vaccine in a developing nation can be difficult with the complexities of sterilization, especially when it comes to often misused needles.
Jet injectors help solve this problem, delivering vaccines to patients using pressure to penetrate the skin, rather than needles. The single-use medical device administers a vaccine through a fine stream of fluid that passes through skin into tissue. The solution is cost-effective and highly efficient, using up to 80 percent less vaccine than a traditional needle injection.
But, when a “get well soon” or a “fuck cancer” card doesn’t feel appropriate, what is the alternative?
Card company thortful has created a range of empathy cards for people with breast cancer that deliver another message.
The greetings include statements like “You are the bravest person I know” and “I don’t always know what to do or say but I will always be here for you no matter what.”
Emily McDowell one of the card designers who contributed to the thortful breast cancer card range was inspired by her own experience surviving cancer.
“It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didnt know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realising it. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think theyre already dead,” McDowell said in a statement emailed to Mashable.
“A ‘fuck cancer’ card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better,” McDowell continued.
McDowell says her goal is to change the conversation around how people talk about illness and people living with cancer.
“If something I created can change conversations and help people communicate, then thats the most rewarding thing I can think of,” McDowell said.
One-hundred percent of the profits from the cards sold will go to cancer charity Breast Cancer Haven. The cards can be purchased online for 2.99 ($3.89).
The Indian spice turmeric makes curry yellow and may be good for your health.
Image: Chuck Kennedy/MCT/MCT via Getty Images
Just as kale emerged from produce-aisle obscurity and wound up in seemingly every salad, smoothie and snack on the planet, turmeric is enjoying a gourmet breakout moment all its own.
The raw plant, which looks like a ginger root, is often ground into a brilliant yellowish-orange powder to add colorful pizzaz to South Asian dishes, such as vegetable curries or chicken tikka masala.
But health-conscious (and trend-obsessed) diners are increasingly adding the spice to their lattes, cold-pressed juices and other edibles to tap into turmeric’s purported anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
A recent experiment by the BBC’s Trust Me, I’m A Doctor TV series conducted with Britain’s leading health researchers suggests some of the health claims around turmeric may hold some weight.
Turmeric has been used in non-Western medicine for thousands of years to improve blood circulation and digestion. But the scientific evidence supporting how turmeric (and its color-giving compound curcumin) actually boost human health is still relatively new.
Studies pointing to turmeric’s cancer-fighting properties have mainly been conducted with rodents, using unrealistically high doses of the spice.
Researchers found that “in rats exposed to cancer-causing substances, those that were treated with turmeric were protected from colon, stomach, and skin cancers,” according to a summary of turmeric’s potential health benefits by Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the top U.S. cancer centers.
“Turmeric also stops the replication of tumor cells when applied directly to them in the laboratory, but it is unknown if this effect occurs in the human body,” the summary said.
Few experiments have been done on humans with real-world doses, according to the BBC report.
Working with the top researchers, the hosts of the BBC program recruited 100 volunteers for their turmeric test, then divided participants into three groups.
One group was asked to consume a teaspoon of turmeric every day for six weeks, ideally mixed within their food, such as warm milk or yogurt. The second group was asked to swallow a supplement containing a teaspoon of turmeric. A third group took a placebo pill.
To analyze their results, the BBC team turned to Dr. Martin Widschwendter, who heads the women’s cancer department at University College, London and is studying how cancers form.
In previous studies unrelated to the turmeric research, Dr. Widschwendter and his team compared tissue samples taken from women with and without breast cancer. They found that a change happens to the DNA of a person’s cells well before the cells turn cancerous. The process, called DNA methylation, acts like a “dimmer switch” that turns the activity of a gene up or down, the BBC reported.
Trust Me, I’m A Doctor asked Dr. Widschwendter to test the DNA methylation patterns of the 100 volunteers’ blood cells at the start and end of the turmeric experiment, to see if it would reveal any change in their risk of cancer, allergies and other diseases.
The doctor reported that, perhaps unsurprisingly, no changes occurred in the group that took the placebo pill. The group that took the turmeric supplement pill also didn’t show any difference.
“But the group who mixed turmeric powder into their food there we saw quite substantial changes,” Dr. Widschwendter told the BBC.
“We found one particular gene which showed the biggest difference,” the doctor said, adding that the gene is thought to be involved in a handful of diseases, such as depression, asthma, eczema and cancer.
“This is a really striking finding, Dr. Widschwendter said.
The experiment by Trust Me, I’m A Doctor is far from conclusive, and more research will be needed to confirm their findings.
Still, the program suggests that steeping turmeric root for some tea or dashing the bright powder on your eggs won’t be totally for naught.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy, however, should ask their doctor before taking turmeric. Recent lab findings suggest it could inhibit the anti-tumor action of chemotherapy drugs, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering.