30 Days of Artists: Looking the Elephant in the Eye

As a four-year breast cancer survivor, client of the BCRC, and veteran Art Bra Model/Artist, Valerie knows better than anyone that not everyone survives breast cancer. In the past several years, she has lost some of her own friends to metastatic breast cancer, also known as Stage IV breast cancer.  While it’s important to celebrate treatment milestones and survivorship, Valerie recognizes Stage IV patients aren’t able to celebrate in the same way as early-stage patients can. Rather, they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives as there is currently no cure for Stage IV. As a result of this unfortunate reality, metastatic patients can often feel like the “elephant in the pink room,” or the odd ones out….not talked about. But that is starting to change, says Valerie.

In recent times, the metastatic community has come up with its own vocabulary to self-identify by. Instead of “survivors”, Stage IV patients call themselves “lifers” or “thrivers”. This new language invokes a sentiment shared by many in the metastatic community – they choose to focus on LIVING and THRIVING despite their diagnosis.

Valerie Schwarzwaelder
“Elephant in the Pink Room”

Featuring 3,000 individually placed jewels, this eye-catching art bra was designed to pay homage to metastatic breast cancer patients, putting their reality front and center. “I am an artist in my own right,” says Valerie. “I create a lot of my own work if I can’t find exactly what I want. I usually find materials that inspire me and put them together to create the impression I get from those things or people.” Valerie created this bra for a thriver she has come to know, who she calls “strong and beautiful.” Taking inspiration from Stage IV breast cancer organization METAvivor’s slogan “Let’s talk about the elephant in the Pink Room,” Valerie used the same colors found in the organization’s ribbon logo, and affixed a spectacular, hand-jeweled elephant head between the cups. The clarity of the message matches the bra’s stand-out qualities, a fitting tribute to the women we have lost to this disease.

To learn more about how you can take action around Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, please visit www.metavivor.org.


All art bras will be auctioned off at BCRC’s signature charity event to raise funds to support local women affected by breast cancer. To learn more about Art Bra Austin, visit www.artbraaustin.org

Art Bra photography generously provided by Flashbax23.

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