13 Wellness Stories From 2017 That Showed Us How Compassionate And Resilient People Can Be

We're looking back at some of the wellness stories that inspired us this past year.

With 2017 coming to a close, we looked back at some of the stories we've written about people who tried to make a positive impact in the lives of themselves and others. One thing we noticed was the resilience people showed in the face of their personal health struggles and the compassionate efforts of others to help them. Whether it's by sharing their journeys for others struggling to feel comfort or by inventing something to help make the lives of people with certain health conditions easier, so many people showed newsworthy strength and kindness this past year. 

We sorted through our wellness stories from the past year and shared some of our favorites below. We hope reading through them inspires you to do good in your communities and reminds you to never take your health for granted. And, for those struggling with a health condition, we hope these stories make you feel hopeful and remind you that you're not alone. 

1. A woman born without a uterus gave birth after a major transplant breakthrough.

Doctors at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas have been conducting a clinical trial on uterus transplant. One of its participants became the first person in the United States born without a uterus to give birth to a baby

This is a game-changer for women who are living with no uterus or one that is nonfunctioning. It can also help women with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome and those with certain cancers. 

"We do transplants all day long," Dr. Giuliano Testa, the trial leader and the surgical chief of abdominal transplant for Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, explained to Time after the successful birth. "This is not the same thing. I totally underestimated what this type of transplant does for these women. What I've learned emotionally, I do not have the words to describe."

At the time, doctors at Baylor said that over 70 women have expressed interest in donating their uterus following news of their clinical trial. 

2. A 9-year-old saved his mom's life thanks to a simple lesson he learned in health class.

Single mom-of-three Kimberly Smith was experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, but assumed these were side effects from her recent bout of pneumonia. She figured if she took a nap, she would feel better. 

Her 9-year-old son Camdyn thought differently. In his health class, he learned that her symptoms could be much more serious. He urged his mother to seek immediate medical attention.

Thankfully, she listened. Smith had a pulmonary embolism in both lungs. A pulmonary embolism is condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot. If she hadn't sought medical attention, the condition could have been fatal. 

3. The American Cancer Society announced breast cancer deaths in the U.S. are down by nearly 40 percent.

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Every two years, the American Cancer Society identifies and reports the latest trends in breast cancer incidence, mortality, survival, and screening by race and ethnicity in the United States. The latest figures shows that from 1989 to 2015, deaths from breast cancer in the U.S. dropped by 39 percent. 

"As a result of this decline, 322,600 breast cancer deaths have been averted in US women through 2015," the report stated. "Declines in breast cancer mortality rates have been attributed to both improvements in treatment, and early detection by mammography." 

4. This husband and wife reinvented crutches to improve people's quality of life.

Anyone who has ever used crutches knows that they're far from comfortable. And, sometimes, they can be painful. Max and Liliana Younger want to change that. 

The husband and wife duo are the co-founders behind the M+D Crutch, which allows crutch users to use their elbows instead of their armpits to support themselves. Users are able to move their arms up and down without removing their crutches and the feet of the crutches can be easily changed. The latter enables them to choose feet for snow, ice, sand, and more.

The couple was inspired to create the innovative crutch design after watching Max's father use crutches following a leg amputation. His dad was dependent on the uncomfortable crutches, so they wanted to give him a better option. 

The M+D Crutch was designed with permanent crutch users in mind, but it can be a great option for temporary users, too. 

5. People started using the #DisabledAndCute hashtag to celebrate what makes them unique.

Writer Keah Brown started using the hashtag on Twitter and shared her story about having cerebral palsy. She encouraged others to do the same and the hashtag took off. Legally blind people, people with limited mobility, people with genetic disorders, and others with disabilities used the hashtag to explain how their disabilities are part of what makes them who they are.

In addition, they showed people the importance of visibility and that being open about a disability isn't necessarily "brave." Instead, they are showing that they are amazing people and their disabilities are just one part of what makes them this way.

6. Google launched an online quiz that can help people determine if they should seek help for depression.

Those in the United States searching Google for "depression" or "clinical depression" on mobile will now see a built-in quiz that helps to determine their level of depression and the need for an in-person evaluation. The "Patient Health Questionnaire-9," or PHQ-9, a clinically validated screening known in the mental health world for identifying levels of depressive symptoms. 

After responding to the quiz's nine questions, users will receive a result that shows their level of depression, what that level means, and how they can find relief. The new feature may inspire more people to seek treatment as well as help them to have a more informed discussion with a medical professional when they do. 

7. Eating Disorder survivors shared their personal journeys to a triumphant recovery.

Eating disorders affect 20 million American women and 10 million American men in the United States at some point in their lives. This year's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26 through March 4) theme was "It's Time to Talk About It." 

"It's time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns," the National Eating Disorders Association wrote on its website at the time. "It's time we bust the myths and get the facts. It's time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It's time to take action and fight for change. It's time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It's Time to Talk About It!"

Many survivors took to social media to do just that. By sharing their powerful, personal journeys toward recovery, these survivors helped to raise awareness about eating disorders and bring hope to those currently struggling. 

8. A teen developed a breast cancer detection bra after almost losing his mother to breast cancer.

Eighteen-year-old Julián Ríos Cantú developed a novel bra outfitted with sensors that can detect the disease during its early stages

"When I was 13 years old, my mother was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer," Ríos Cantú said in a company video for his new invention. "The tumor went from having the dimensions of a grain of rice to that of a golf ball in less than six months. The diagnosis came too late and my mother lost both of her breasts and, almost, her life." 

He teamed up with three of his friends to start Higia Technologies, which has developed Eva, the breast cancer detection bra, under the brand. The bra's tactile sensors map the breast's surface and monitor texture, color, and temperature. The data it collects is available on an app that can be downloaded to both a user's mobile device or desktop. The bra is still in its early stages of development, but it's exciting to see young people work hard to make a huge impact for so many people. 

9. This boyfriend created a thoughtful DIY gift for a loved one who struggles with depression and anxiety — and inspired others to do the same.

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Reddit user bovadeez filled a jar of popsicle sticks meant to bring his girlfriend comfort during difficult times. He wrote a handwritten message on each stick and color-coded them so they fit into special categories. 

"Each 'category' is color coded, so for example, orange are inspirational quotes from poets, political figures, philosophers, and humanitarians across time. Yellow reminders are positive words to help you through the day things like 'you're beautiful' and 'it's OK to ask for help,' " he explained. "The purple ones are tips to help her relax things like, 'take a break' while she's working on her master's or 'listen to your favorite song.' I put a fine tipped sharpie in there with the blank ones, so she record[ed] moments when she's the happiest and then she can pull one of those later when she needs it." 

The touching gift shows how important it can be to show a loved one experiencing mental health issues that you care.

10. This beauty salon became a safe space for those living with a hair-pulling disorder.

For people living with trichotillomania — also known as the hair-pulling disorder — a trip to a hair salon can be a difficult experience. Salon Ziba, a hair salon in New York City, hopes to make things a little easier for people with this condition. They employ style specialists with hands-on experience catering to people with trichotillomania. They also offer these clients private rooms for their cuts and colors.

"We wanted to look at beauty from within, and it's always been my idea to help clients achieve a level of comfort and happiness," salon owner Alonso Salguero told A Plus in August. "It's not just about the hair aesthetic and color, but what can we do to help them feel healthier within? Like vitamins and private services that cater to trichotillomania sufferers."

Salguero hopes all of its clients will feel that his salon is a comfortable and safe space.  

11. A 6-year-old warmed our hearts with the way he celebrated the end of his chemotherapy treatment.

Jimmy Spangolo was diagnosed with the brain tumor when he was just four months old. So when he completed his last round of chemotherapy treatment for an inoperable brain tumor in February, he definitely had reason to celebrate. 

At the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, where he was being treated, he danced and rang a bell to show his joy.

The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC wrote on their Facebook page that the bell, "signifies so many emotions — it can signify the sound of tears, strength, fear, courage, doubt, satisfaction, relief, and happiness all coming through as one as people around them cheer this accomplishment, " they added, "The sound of that bell resonates in more ways than one. The emotion in the room is just unbelievable."

12. A scientific study found that owning a dog can help you live longer.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the CDC. About 1 in 4 people die of heart disease in the United States every year.

In a study published in Scientific Reportsresearchers analyzed data from more than three million people and found that owning a dog reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent and death from any cause by 15 percent. 

The study further explains that dogs can help their humans combat this disease and others by "providing a non-human form of social support and increasing physical activity." 

In particular, owning a dog can be beneficial for people who live alone. "Dog ownership has been reported to be associated with alleviation of social isolation and improved perception of well-being, particularly in single persons and the elderly," the study stated. 

13. People shaved their heads for the "Brave The Shave" campaign to support those with cancer.

Losing your hair when it's out of your control can be an emotionally painful experience. For some people, it can feel like losing a part of themselves. Chemotherapy treatments can often cause people with cancer to lose their hair which only adds to their difficult experience. 

This year, to help support people with cancer who have lost their hair, friends, family members, and even strangers took part in Macmillan Cancer Support's Brave the Shave campaign. Their hair was donated to create real-hair wigs for boys and girls across the U.K. and Ireland who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment and other illnesses.

"By braving the shave you'll be helping people living with cancer take back control so they can start to feel like themselves again," the Macmillan Cancer Support website says. 

Cover image via Unsplash

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