Fashion forward

Beads 4 Boobs creator aims to educate through jewelry

Ever since we met, I’ve admired my friend Wendy Kaplan’s handmade jewelry. One evening early on in our friendship, as a conversation-starter, I told her how much I liked the earrings she was wearing. They were dangly, symmetrical and, at the bottom hung a silver ribbon. For about the next 10 minutes, after taking one of them off to show me clearly, she explained how she’d come to make them and what each piece represented. Seeing as it’s October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month—I thought it would be appropriate to sit down with Kaplan to discuss her accessories business.

“I wanted to create something that could actually help people,” she said. “I’m tired of all the pink plastic crap [sold in the name of breast cancer awareness] that just fills our landfills.” As a health educator—Kaplan is adjunct faculty at Chico State and also works locally for California Health Collaborative—she’s always searching for better ways to get her message across. That message, in the case of those earrings, is to help visualize the effectiveness of regular breast cancer screenings.

When Kaplan started teaching women about breast cancer at health fairs and other events, she said she found a necklace in a teachers’ catalogue with different size beads. Those beads represented the size of lumps found during different types of screenings. But it was outdated. With technology as it is today, the effectiveness of screenings has increased and now a yearly mammogram can catch a lump the size of, well the tiny bead at the top of Kaplan’s earrings. She did her research, then sought out materials that, additionally, matched the lump sizes associated with a first-time mammogram, a clinical breast exam, a regular self exam or by accident. Finally, she compiled her research into an easily accessible card attached to each pair and started Beads 4 Boobs. She launched a website ( last month and she donates a portion of her proceeds to the California Health Collaborative’s Clinical Education, Coordination and Nurse Navigation program, which helps local women get screenings and treatment for breast cancer.

“This whole idea of awareness—it makes people feel good, but it doesn’t actually address the issue,” Kaplan said. Hopefully her Beads 4 Boobs can take awareness a step further and actually convince some women to go get screened. (The bonus is her earrings are also super cute!) It certainly doesn’t need to be October for that.

In other news, I got to go to two pretty fantastic events the past two weekends. First, the Sierra Oro Farm Trail Passport Weekend, with perfect weather to explore our local farms. The highlight for me was Durham’s Grey Fox Vineyards, whose cabernet was exquisite alongside their homemade beef stew. Not to sound like a boozehound, but the second event was Sierra Nevada’s Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Festival (a perfect end to a super fun Chico Beer Week), where I got to taste some delicious craft beers—including Pliny the Elder!—some of them made specially for the event.