Calendar girls to promote cancer research

Professor Stina Oredsson and the owner of the women’s underwear store Kvinnligt under, Carolina Le Prince, have together created a calendar of partially nude women. This unusual way to raise money for cancer research resulted in SEK 235,000.

Stina Oredsson o Carolina Le Prince

Stina Oredsson (right) receives the collected money from Carolina Le Prince (in the middle).

Carolina Le Prince shows us the calendar when we visit her store where the walls are covered in lace bras and panties in black, white and pastel. Under the crystal chandelier stands this energetic woman. Her hair has grown back and she has completed her cancer treatment. The fact that she became ill with breast cancer was a cruel twist of fate, as she had just committed herself to raising funds for specifically breast cancer – unaware that she herself was suffering from the same disease.

“Together with a few other shops, I was about to organise a fashion show, and this year I suggested that we donate the money to breast cancer research. A friend who worked at the University’s Development Office got me in contact with Lund University and researcher Stina Oredsson.”

Stina Oredsson and Carolina Le Prince were a good fit. Despite having chosen completely different professions, they had a lot in common – an iron will, and plenty of confidence and dedication. Stina Oredsson is a cell biologist and manages a group of researchers studying cancer cells. Chemists, biologists and medical professionals are together trying to produce toxic substances that can kill the few but most malignant cancer cells found in a tumour – aggressive cancer stem cells. These cells can survive harsh treatments, and then remain hidden in the body for many years before the cancer comes back.

“Because there are always more ideas and more researchers than there is funding, it is important that we raise money any way we can. It is a strange system – first we employ talented researchers; then it is still not certain that there will be money for them to do research”, says Stina Oredsson.

Stina Oredsson has been heavily involved in the project that generated a ripple effect. She describes the fashion show as a real show, with a catwalk set up inside an auto repair shop.

“Outrageous – definitely the most unique thing that has ever happened at a tire company! Models of all ages showed underwear, coats and shoes. The biggest applause went to a 70-year-old lady. And then I came in and talked about cancer cells and let people look at cells through my microscope”, she says.

The ticket sales and an auction at the fashion show generated SEK 35,000. But Carolina Le Prince was not satisfied – it wasn’t enough. She was in the midst of undergoing her own rough treatment when the idea of making a calendar suddenly came to her. Her store has many Facebook followers so she started searching for calendar girls that way, and 14 brave women suffering from breast cancer responded that they wanted to participate and try to raise money for research. Carolina then had to find people who were willing to work for free, supporting a good cause – a photographer, makeup artist, hair stylist, and printing company. Meanwhile, her memory and ability to think were not what they used to be because of the chemotherapy.

“The fact that I was able to pull it off is probably related to my intensive exercises throughout the treatment, as I participated in a study on exercise and cancer. I’m tremendously proud of the calendar. The photographer really captured everyone’s different emotions”, says Carolina Le Prince.

Both Carolina Le Prince and Stina Oredsson find that their favourite thing about the project was the people they got a chance to meet, who they describe as amazing.

“I’ve never had any close contact with cancer patients before, even though my research is about cancer. I’ve now met so many brave and open women. I hope I have been able to defuse the topic of cancer slightly, so that it becomes a little less scary”, concludes Stina Oredsson.

Text: Jenny Loftrup

Photo: Gunnar Menander