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The Brecancenator
"There are so many obstacles to overcome, so much need for creative thinking needed to address the myriad of challenges facing our society."
-Linnea House

by Linnea House

An elementary school invention fair is not exactly the setting you'd expect to move one to tears but then life has a way of showing you the beauty of human nature in surprising ways.

After setting up my third grade son's display, and scanning the large gym seeking distractions for my youngest son, I saw her. She was the first student from her school set up at the long table ready and was standing alone with her colorful display. I approached her and asked her to tell me about her invention.

"It is the Brecancenator," replied the fifth grader. "Oh, really?" I replied, perplexed. I saw a large cardboard box painted pink and orange and a tall doll. "And what does it do?"

She took a deep breath and placed her doll inside her cardboard box, "You step inside here, press this button here and it scans your body for breast cancer. And if it finds breast cancer, you press this button here and it takes away the breast cancer. It only takes one day."

My heart stops. I squeeze my son's hand. "Wow. That is great. Why did you invent this?"

"My grandma has breast cancer and she said it is real hard to get rid of and she keeps fighting. I made this so that I could help her."

My eyes tear and I take a sharp breath in. "Your grandmother must be very proud of you," I said. I was proud of her.

"Mmm-hmm," she said casually. We thanked her and moved on.


This short interaction occurred around the same time that the Komen Foundation made its initial announcement that it would stop funding free breast cancer screenings performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, effectively decreasing access to health care for thousands of low-income and at-risk women.

I immediately thought back to that young girl, seeing her grandmother struggling and wanting to help her. There are so many obstacles to overcome, so much need for creative thinking needed to address the myriad of challenges facing our society. I am hopeful that one day this young girl inventor, and my own sons, will continue to find inspiration to improve the world for their own families and communities.

But now, we have our work to do, to make their world a better place.

Linnea House is the executive director of NARAL ProChoice Minnesota.

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