Women are the silent minority even though they are half of the population. This silence makes it difficult for women to talk about the various afflictions which they face. One of these is breast cancer.
Not many know that breast cancer is a silent killer among women simply because of a lack of awareness. The hush-hush culture which prevails whenever there’s talk of women’s bodies and the diseases that could be is a major reason behind this.
But some people are fighting back against this stigma. One of them is Jennifer Jolicoeur. But before diving into her achievements, let’s quickly go over a little about breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops right in the breast cells. Generally such cancer forms in the breast ducts or the lobules. Lobules are those glands that make milk and the ducts are the passageways that bring the milk from the gland right to the nipple. Apart from this cancer can happen in the fibrous connective tissue or fatty tissue within the breast as well.
Uncontrolled cancer cells can often invade other healthy tissues of the breast and can even travel up to the lymph nodes present under the arms. These lymph nodes are a very primary pathway that helps the cancerous cells move on to other parts of the body.
The uncontrolled cancer cells often invade other healthy breast tissue and can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms. The lymph nodes are a primary pathway that helps the cancer cells move to other parts of the body.
Jennifer Jolicoeur is the founder and president of Athena’s Home Novelties. She spent ten years trying to achieve something which could be seen as weird by others- setting the record for the longest bra chain. But it wasn’t just a hobby or a weird aim. Jennifer wanted to do it to raise awareness to support the fight against breast cancer.
How did Jennifer come up with this unique idea?
The journey began ten years ago when an employee of Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jennifer heard about the condition of the employee and felt passionate about doing something so that she could support the cause.
Back then there were other breast cancer fundraising and awareness activities. But Jennifer felt that while these initiatives didn’t lack passion at all, but there was something more that could be done.
Jennifer said: “There must be something magical and pure we could do.”
She found the seed of her idea while on an annual trip to Orlando with friends. There Jennifer’s friend began to experience discomfort due to the bra she was wearing. She felt the bra underwire poking into her skin. There were two options right now.
One included salvaging the bra and the other included going without it. The friend decided that the latter option was best and decided to remove the bra altogether. After a moment everyone in the group followed suit. Then an idea occurred to Jennifer- “what if we hooked all the bras together?” and with that, the record-making idea was created.
After this, Jennifer and her team set out on a mission- to collect used bras.
The uphill fight to get the bras
Initially, the team believed that they would be able to collect the number of bras needed to surpass the current record at that time- 166,625 bras, within just 5 months. But they vastly underestimated just how difficult their goal was going to be.
But the problems didn’t stop them. They were determined and continued to collect for a decade. Finally, they had collected 200,000 bras. With this, they had surpassed their goal by a huge margin.
With this, they were ready to aim for the official Guinness World Records title.
The Guinness World Record attempt
Jennifer and her team began their attempt on Friday, 4 October 2019. October was also Breast Cancer Awareness month. The team’s attempt was at the River’s Edge Sports Complex in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. There volunteers from the community who were politely known as “Hookers” came together on the field to begin hooking up the bras together.
On the first day, just six people showed up. But after overcoming so much hardship for years, Jennifer and her team weren’t going to let a little low turnout affect them from going for the title. But this wouldn’t be the only challenge that they would have to overcome.
The tent which had been set up right that morning had collapsed due to heavy winds of the oncoming New-England North Easter storm.
Things weren’t looking so good for them even at the end of the second day. Even with an increase in the number of volunteers from the first day, the team had only managed to link 15,000 bras in the chain.
Many people suggested to Jennifer that she should abandon her efforts since a serious storm was coming. They also warned that this storm would make it impossible for her to complete the task within the planned timeframe.
But neither the weather issues nor the naysayers could stop Jennifer.
Jennifer opted for another way. She shifted her timeline and then worked through the entire storm. In the coming weeks, Jennifer and the community came together to work as one. They persevered through the ambitious project of hooking and linking each piece of bra together.
Many people of all backgrounds and ages came together to share their stories. Others visited daily to show support and to be a part of something special and unique.
Many people signed their bra contribution and included messages to their loved ones who were affected by breast cancer. Not just ordinary people but celebrities also signed the bras. This included Weird Al Yankovic, Hulk Hogan, Burt Reynolds, and more.
With everyone’s help, Jennifer and her team were able to achieve their goal and finally reached 195,000 bras in the chain.
Adjudicator Christina Flounders-Conlon arrived on Wednesday, 16 October to review the evidence. It was then announced that the attempt had been successful. With that, a new record was set at a total of 196,564 bras.
So what will happen to the bras used to create this historic record? Jennifer plans to successfully auction these off to continue supporting the fight against breast cancer. That simply makes her more inspirational.