Interview: Shaney Jo Darden, Keep A Breast

CD: Why did you start KAB? What’s the mission?

SJD: I founded Keep A Breast 18 years ago after a friend, who was in her 20’s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the beginning, Keep A Breast has made connections with younger generations about breast health through music, art, skate, and surf culture. We meet young people where they are and we empower them with the education to help them be their own, best advocates.

Our Mission is to empower young people around the world with breast health education and support.

CD: The idea of breast casts is so unique. How did you come up with the concept? Do you have a  favorite “cast” story?

SJD: The concept of having artists paint on breast casts was inspired by Frida Kahlo. She was confined to a cast after breaking her spinal column, ribs and pelvis, and I was inspired by the images of her painting her own cast. She made incredible beauty out of a painful situation.

One of my favorite casting experiences was recently in Mexico at the Keep A Breast survivor retreat. I was so honored to be trusted to cast an 80 year old breast cancer survivor with one boob! Casting survivors always has a special meaning. Every body is beautiful and has a story to tell. These women have been through so much. Casting someone is a very intimate experience. Most of the time I’m meeting someone for the first time and they are standing naked in front of me rubbing baby oil on their boobies… or sans boobies! I start slow, take deep breaths, look them in the eye and get to work casting. I feel like they trust me to really see them. It’s a vulnerable situation for us both and a huge gift to me.

CD: We now know early detection is critical.  Have you found using the arts as a vehicle to raise awareness has allowed you to capture the attention of younger people? If so, how?

SJD: This is exactly the intention of the art behind KAB. Art can communicate complex feelings and emotions that I never could. Art can change lives, make people think, and make people act. And for KAB, it inspires people to be their own own health advocates. Whatever we do, art is always at our core. Even our art direction as a brand is core to who we are. Awareness unites our passions, and we use brand recognition as a form of art to create campaigns that appeal to younger people, help us achieve our mission, and help us raise funds. We have a new national grassroots campaign called Fit 4 Prevention that is a fundraiser, but also helps educate about cancer prevention through fitness and wellness. We are able to inspire people across the country to inspire their own communities. It’s one thing for us to preach to the choir, but the choir going out into the community and delivering your message for you is the best and most authentic way to get information about breast cancer prevention to people.

CD: I recently downloaded your Check Yourself app. Can you tell us a bit about it?

SJD: I wanted to create a simple tool that could be used by women in the privacy of their own homes to help them get in a regular breast heath routine. The KAB Check Yourself! App is available in 6 languages and has been used in over 170 countries by over 53K people! You can set an automatic reminder that will send you a CHECK YOURSELF! Notification. The best time to do your self-check is a week after your period. If you find anything hat does not seem normal to you please see your doctor right away.

CD: How can people get involved?

SDJ: Check out the new series we launched with Carrie. It’s a special series the benefits Keep A Breast. Follow us on @keepabreast and @fit4prevention to stay up to date on all breast health and wellness tips and stories and share your story with us.

CD: If there is one message you want to leave readers with, what is it?

SJD: I want people first and foremost to take a minute and look at your breasts and tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Thank them for being there. I want you to know that early detection saves lives and doing your monthly self-check is the best way to know what is normal and not normal for you. Since you’re probably reading this interview on your phone you can download our free app Check Yourself! Right now and get right to it! Tell your BFF’s. I do!