Stick(er)ing up for cancer research

UTD student raises awareness for breast cancer with animal art

Smrithi Upadhyayula
Mercury Staff

Combining the classic pink ribbon with her whimsical drawing style, a neuroscience and healthcare studies freshman is now selling her art to raise money for breast cancer research.

Izzy Raicu’s interest in breast cancer began with a high school research internship.

“In 10th grade, I got paired with a research lab at UT Southwestern, and I did breast cancer research there for the next couple of years,” Raicu said. “I also got to shadow and actually interact with patients, so it wasn’t only bench research. That really got me into understanding the breast cancer community and the challenges that everyone faces when they go through having breast cancer.”

Unable to spend last summer in her lab due to the pandemic, Raicu found another way to pursue her goal of aiding breast cancer research.

“I couldn’t work in my lab because it was shut down to anyone who wasn’t faculty or a postdoc employee, so I was just sitting at home,” Raicu said. “I kind of had this idea to keep contributing to the breast cancer community through fundraising.”

Raicu opened an Etsy shop selling a variety of stationery and gift items from vinyl stickers and sticker sheets to greeting cards for birthdays and holidays. All of her products feature original drawings that incorporate the pink ribbon, a well-known symbol of breast cancer awareness.  Hence the name of her company: Pink Ribbon Parcels. She said her lifelong passion for art helped fuel the process of starting her business.

“My grandma was an art teacher; she taught high school art back in the day,” Raicu said. “She taught me to paint, honestly, before I could even write, so I’ve always had art as a hobby, as something that helped me express things in a different way.”

Many of Raicu’s products star cartoon bunnies inspired by her pet rabbits, Scotch and Marbles. Her sister’s chinchilla, Willow, has also made a guest appearance. She said she hopes her cheerful designs deliver a message of positivity to those who really need it.

“I wanted something that would be aesthetically pleasing and something that people would enjoy,” Raicu said. “I think animals bring a lot of joy to people and are just universally liked. The traditional, normal ribbon – we’ve seen that a hundred times, you know? An animal holding the ribbon still carries that message of pink and support but with a different twist so that people can get something that not only supports breast cancer but is also cute in general.”

In the future, she hopes to launch care packages directly aimed toward breast cancer patients.

“(The packages) are going to have a support pillow, a mask, some adult coloring pages, stickers of course – things like that,” Raicu said. “Just some cute knick-knacks so they can take their mind off of what they’re going through and feel a little bit more happy and supported.”

Raicu uses her website and Facebook page to raise awareness about breast cancer as well as the necessity of properly caring for animals like her rabbits. She said she hopes her shop helps foster a community that is educated about breast cancer and supportive of those fighting the disease.

“It’s been a challenge, launching a business during a pandemic with no business background,” Raicu said. “There’s so much I have to learn, but it’s been a great journey so far.”