Coping with Chemotherapy through Creativity

Nadia Ragbar

Each of us seeks and deserves an outlet and the full expression of our voice. Fulfillment really might boil down to something that simple, and yet the journey to said fulfillment is anything but. Perversely, comically, tragically, ironically not simple.

Debra Ann Ragbar had been managing a life-threatening blood clotting disorder, Polycythemia Rubra Vera, for twenty years. Two decades of hospital stays, hospital food, a myriad of wonderful doctors, one or two less-than-wonderful doctors, emergency surgeries, medications, restrictions, uncertainty, stress, until finally management. Day-by-day management for twenty years, until nearly to the date, yet another diagnosis: Breast Cancer.

She has written that, “It was a moment of disbelief hearing a diagnosis of breast cancer four days before my sixty-fourth birthday last November. I could not speak for days. Denial set in; disappointment, extreme sadness, and thoughts of my own mortality kept me company.” On its website, the Canadian Cancer Society cites that “[f]or women in Ontario, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer. In 2017 an estimated 10,100 women were diagnosed.” The soaring rates of all forms of cancer means that nearly every family is touched in some way, some how, at some time with the realities of this disease.

Debra Ann chose to harness her creativity; her passion for sewing and her engagement with a new medium of leatherwork in order to take matters in her own hands, as it were. The culmination of this was Grands & Co. and a line of handcrafted leather tote bags, sold as a fundraising initiative for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre: “I stopped thinking about cancer or of an unpredictable future. I stopped being emotional, and I was finally able to talk about what I had embarked on for Princess Margaret as a result of cancer. I was excited about my new purpose in life, and I was no longer ashamed of having cancer.” The grace of creativity is what moved Debra Ann from being in a place “unable to speak,” to finally being able “to talk” about her hope for the future.

And so, to stand in solidarity with her new tribe, during this October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month Debra Ann has collaborated with fourteen artists whose work she admires, to use the Grands & Co. leather totes as their canvas to create pieces of Wearable Art. To be able to merge disciplines of leather smithing and fashion with fine arts painting as one way to encourage our collective expression. To inspire and be inspired by our shared humanity. To put voice to the journey. So vast. So simple.

Grands & Co. will be launching the limited-edition Wearable Art “Timeless Totes” fundraiser on Thurs. October 17, 5-9:30pm at Milk Glass Co. (1247 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON, M6J 1X6). 100% of the sales of these bags will be donated to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to support their very exceptional patient care and cutting-edge research.

About Grands & Co.: Grands & Co. is a breast cancer project. A tote bag has been designed and is crafted from genuine leather and is dyed, antiqued, and waxed by hand so that each has a unique finish. Along with promoting wellness through creativity, $50 from the sale of each tote is donated to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 100% of the sales of the Wearable Art Timeless Totes will be donated.

Nadia Ragbar is a Creative Writer who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Totes


Wearable Art Tote - Jacqueline Poirier - Power from the Storm $600.00


Wearable Art Tote - Sarah Phelps - Believe $1,000.00


Wearable Art Tote - Olga Pankova - Dreamer $1,050.00


Wearable Art Tote - Shawn Ragbar - Heart of Gold $500.00


Wearable Art Tote - Raksha Mani - Healing Mandala $400.00


Wearable Art Tote - Claire Minderhoud - Aan de Amstel $400.00


Wearable Art Tote - Christine Heslop - Sakura $550.00


Wearable Art Tote - Andrew Westmaas - Working Together SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Apoorva Varma - Phool (Flower) SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Sacha Sewhdat - aBC Story SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Nadia Ragbar - Starlight + Moonlight SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Lori Meeboer - Coming Home SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Danika Dawn - Winter Snow Globe SOLD


Wearable Art Tote - Denina Simmons - Autumn Swoop SOLD