October is Breast Cancer Prevention Month. It’s a national reminder for women to check in on their own breast health. It’s an important month to honor the incredible people in our communities who have lived with or are currently living with breast cancer. It’s also an inspiring time to invest personally in more healthy habits and to read up on the amazing medical advancements that have been made around breast cancer treatment and prevention.
I was so honored to sit down with Shaney jo Darden, the founder of Keep A Breast, to glean such thoughtful insights into the way her non-profit is helping on an issue that is deeply personal for nearly everyone.
LW: What is Keep A Breast and what’s your focus within the greater breast cancer support community?
SD: Keep A Breast is a non-profit organization with a mission to empower young people around the world with breast health education and support. We are unique in the fact that we are the only global organization that talks to young people about breast cancer prevention. The truth is that women are being diagnosed younger and younger, cancers are becoming more aggressive, and only 10% are linked to family history. With women in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed with breast cancer, you really can’t wait to think about it until you’re in your 40’s or 50’s. We educate from a place of love and prevention, empowering people to be their own health advocate so they know when something is wrong and can detect it early.
LW: What made you passionate about this issue?
SD: In 2000, my best friend Mona’s mother was experiencing a returned case of breast cancer, and another friend of ours – who was our age – had been recently diagnosed. I was looking for some way to give back and I couldn’t find anything interesting that spoke to me. Mona and I put together large art and fashion events at the time called MODART and we thought, “Why not create an art show to raise awareness of breast cancer?” We asked all our artist friends to paint on breast casts and the initial incarnation of Keep A Breast was born in 2000. In the beginning, I never intended on starting a non-profit. It just happened very organically with the help of friends and supporters. Our vision is a world without breast cancer. But until then, our mission is to educate young people about the true risks of cancer, ways of living a healthy, non-toxic lifestyle, and the importance of a “self-check” to ensure early detection.
LW: What is the best thing we can all do this month to support our personal breast health?
SD: Breast health isn’t just for October, but we’re so happy we have this platform where it’s more at the forefront of people’s mind and they can continue, or begin a breast health routine. We encourage people to download our Check Yourself! App and tell your friends and family to be their own health advocate and check themselves once a month. It’s a free download, available in seven languages, and shows you how to check yourself and sets an automatic monthly reminder.
We also have a rad campaign happening this October called Fit 4 Prevention, you can find a class near you, or host one, and support our programs and your prevention journey. Just 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week can lower your risk of breast cancer by 30-50%. Exercise can be many things, and it’s something we can do for ourselves for our physical and mental health. October is a great time to start your own fitness routine to lower your risk and help reduce stress from your body and mind.
LW: Can you tell me more about the Non-Toxic Revolution?
SD: When I realized that breast cancer diagnosis was only 10 percent genetic and 90 percent of our environment, I knew there was an even bigger conversation that needed to be had.
I started Non-Toxic Revolution (NTR) to open a direct dialogue about the food we eat, the products we use and the toxins we are exposed to that really increase our risk of breast cancer and many other diseases. This was in part inspired by BCPP’s State of Evidence.
NTR uses art, music, and creative messaging to inform, educate, and inspire young people to revolt against the dangers of toxic chemicals in their everyday environment and personal care products – especially those linked to the initiation of breast cancer. Moreover, it also teaches young people to become their own health advocates, both personally and through activism. It gives people alternatives to toxic products through the online Give Shop, where all purchases are donations and support the program’s work.
LW: For our readers who want to get involved, what would be their best next steps?
SD: Join us this October, post a#checkyourselfie, and commit to a monthly breast self-check. Share your pledge on social media and ask your friends to do the same!
Take the pledge to do your self-check every month. Knowing what is “normal” for you can potentially save your life. Get the Check Yourself! App.