SHANEY JO DARDEN, FOUNDER OF THE KEEP A BREAST FOUNDATION
Shaney Jo Darden is the Founder of the Keep A Breast Foundation (KAB), a non-profit organization she established in 2005 in response to the growing need for breast cancer awareness programs targeting young people. As a young woman herself, she had a number of friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s and it was a wake up call to how early in life breast cancer can strike. She realized the conversation about breast cancer prevention needed to start much earlier, amongst her peers and in a language they spoke.
Keep A Breast began as an art movement. As a young designer in the creative scene of skateboard industry in the 90’s, Shaney jo drew upon the artistic community as a natural breeding ground for awareness and communication. Producing art shows at the time, she wanted to create something closer to the cause. What evolved was a series of customized breast casts, first of friends, painted by different influential artists such as Shepard Fairey and Ed Templeton, and later pro snowboarders, that in 2000 were officially showcased in an exhibition called Keep A Breast.
Keep A Breast shows were organized across the U.S. and throughout Europe, with growing participation by celebrity castees and artists. The success of these art benefits, highlighted by artists emerging from the skateboarding, music and action sports scenes, put breast cancer awareness on the map for a younger generation. Other youth oriented educational programs followed and today the Keep A Breast Foundation has three core programs, Traveling Education Booth, Treasured Chest, and most recently, Non Toxic Revolution — all of which promote breast cancer awareness through Art, Education, Awareness and Action.
While breast cancer is something the media generally focuses on in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we should be conscious year round of the things we can do to prevent it. As spring officially kicks off, there is no better time than the present. With that in mind, we asked Shaney jo for some specific clean up tips to start the season off right…
“8 WAYS TO SPRING CLEAN THE TOXIC VIBES AND LOWER YOUR RISK OF BREAST CANCER”
By Shaney jo Darden
With spring on the horizon, it is the ideal time to start thinking about how to live a healthier life in the months ahead by instituting positive practices and ditching harmful habits that may put you at risk for breast cancer and other medical conditions. As my journey with KAB progressed, I learned that family history isn’t the only factor influencing whether someone is likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, genetics accounts for only about 10 percent of the risk factor, with a gnarly 90 percent linked to environmental factors! I knew I needed to find a way to address these environmental elements, so I started our program Non Toxic Revolution.
Non Toxic Revolution informs, educates, and inspires young people about the dangers of toxic chemicals in all areas of their lives —especially those linked to the initiation of breast cancer. It has become increasingly important for young people to become aware of the product contents they are using in order to effectively advocate for their own health and lower their risk for cancer and other diseases.
Spring cleaning isn’t just about your home. You can spring clean whatever part of your life is slowing you down and detox your way to a clearer mind and stronger body, just by taking a few simple steps:
1. Cabinet Cleanse
Many products we use every day can contribute to our risk of cancer, such as deodorant, shampoo, lotion, lipstick, and even perfume. That includes the products we use in our home cleaning as well. The cosmetics industry is very loosely regulated, and while one product may contain a “safe level” of harmful chemicals, the reality is that women regularly use around 12 products, which equals an average of 168 chemicals that we expose our bodies to everyday. Men use fewer, but still expose their skin to around 85 chemicals daily. When we use that many products containing potential carcinogens, the combined effect is much less safe for our bodies than it needs to be. Luckily, there are many great companies that produce non toxic cosmetics, personal care and cleansing products to keep our bodies free of as many toxins as we can control. Download Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep App to scan products in store so you can shop smart and non toxic!
2. Eat Your Medicine
Food is fuel, and nutrient-rich food is medicine for your body. Counting chemicals instead of calories is an efficient way to make sure your body gets the vitamins it needs to be at its best. By consuming things like turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, and berries and avoiding chemically processed foods, you can reduce your risk of cancer, while enjoying other benefits like maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your risk of heart disease, and increasing your energy levels. Another tip: Women who eat a fiber rich diet are 54 percent less likely to get breast cancer.
3. You’re Sweet Enough
Processed sugar can cause your body a lot of problems and has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Just this year, scientists have linked sugar directly to breast cancer tumor growth. Sweetened beverages, such as soda, energy drinks, juice from concentrate and sports drinks are the main source of added sugar in our diet., accounting for one-third of the added sugar we consume. Whoa! Try to cut out all that sugar and grab a piece of fruit when you get a sweet tooth instead. Be aware that many fruit juices have added sugar that takes away from their natural nutrition, so it’s best to eat them whole or blended in a homemade smoothie or juice. Homemade is always best.
4. Get Your Sweat On
If you’re already exercising regularly, you are doing more to lower your risk of breast cancer than you may think! Just 30 minutes of aerobic activity three to five times a week can lower your risk of breast cancer by 30 to 50 percent. You can always go to the gym for aerobic activity, but you can also find fun ways to raise your heart rate outdoors. Go on a hike with friends, take a swim, work in the garden, try a new sport or go on a nice walk. Working out in a group setting can keep you accountable and sparks a little bit of friendly competition.
5. Just Breathe
Taking a few deep breaths can help reduce tension, relieve stress and mimic your body’s state of relaxation, thanks to the extra boost of oxygen. Life has a way of kicking us in the butt, but one of the easiest ways to deal is to reconnect with your breath and give yourself a moment. If you are experiencing shallow breathing, find a place where you can be alone and take some slow, deep breaths to calm down. Even if you aren’t feeling stressed, this is a great exercise in relaxation and becoming present in the moment.
6. Work Those Green Thumbs
Planting trees can help the air quality outdoors, and the same goes for inside your home. There are specific types of plants that can help improve your air quality more than others, and some remove up to 90 percent of chemicals in the air in as little as 24 hours. You can even take it step further by planting your own organic garden. Fruits and vegetables are often grown with many harmful pesticides, but by cultivating your own, you know for sure what your produce has been exposed to. What’s more picking food right from your garden or box planter can create feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
7. Take Digital Detoxes
Most of us have jobs that involve constant connection to our phones and computers, but digital overdosing can really take a toll on our mind and body. Constant and uninterrupted computer use has been linked to stress, depression and loss of sleep in women. Stress has many effects on our bodies, and reducing it is crucial to our overall health. Taking frequent small breaks during the day can help alleviate this, and going offline at least an hour before bed will increase chances of falling dozing off swiftly and getting a quality night’s sleep, so you have more energy to take on the day! Lately, I’ve been removing all digital devices from my bedroom when I sleep to keep myself in a clear headspace.
8. Visualize Your Day
A quick visualization can get you back to center and help you relax. I like to take five minutes and do this first thing in the morning. Before I get out of bed, I breathe and visualize a peaceful scene, a future vacation or myself accomplishing my goals for the day. The waking moment is the perfect time to say hello to your day and give gratitude for all the good things that surround you in your life. Guided imagery has been known to help trigger relaxation and is a tranquil way to set your intentions for the day while boosting your mood, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.
All images courtesy of Shaney jo Darden