Shaney jo Darden founded the Keep A Breast Foundation (KAB) to empower young people worldwide with breast health education and support. As a young designer in the skateboard industry in the 90s, Shaney jo realized that the artists, designers, and community members created a natural breeding ground for awareness and communication. So in 1999, when a young friend of Shaney jo's was diagnosed with breast cancer, she looked to raise awareness of breast cancer's physical and emotional challenges in the most powerful way she knew how—through art—and KAB was born.
For five years and counting, a percentage of net proceeds of October sales from GoMacro's Cherries + Berries MacroBar will be donated to KAB. This partnership holds a special place in our hearts as our co-founder, Amelia, is a breast cancer survivor, and it's our mission to inspire others to have a healthy body, sharp mind, and bold spirit. We caught up with Shaney Jo to talk about the inspiration behind Keep A Breast, how they're opening up a new conversation around breast cancer, and preventative steps individuals can take to empower themselves.
- 1. Like GoMacro, Keep A Breast’s founding story is deeply intertwined with the breast cancer diagnosis of a loved one. Can you tell us more about how that journey was the catalyst for Keep a Breast?
So intertwined. It all started with my friends being diagnosed with breast cancer incredibly young. I had no prior comprehension of how early in life breast cancer could strike. It flipped a switch in my brain, and I realized that it was my purpose to start this conversation with young people about breast cancer prevention. I wanted to do something that spoke to my peers.
- 2. What led you to keep art at the forefront of the mission of Keep A Breast and why do you think that’s resonated with so many people?
In the beginning, I never intended to start a non-profit. It happened very organically with the help of friends and supporters. In 2000, my friend Mona’s mother was experiencing a returned case of breast cancer, and another friend of ours—who was 33—had been recently diagnosed. Mona and I were looking for some way to give back and we couldn’t find anything interesting that spoke to us.
I was in the process of putting 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?” I asked all our artist friends to paint on breast casts, and the initial incarnation of Keep A Breast was born in 2000.
Experiencing cancer is so personal, and so is art as self-expression. I think our message has always challenged the status quo, and that’s exactly what art does. So why not combine them?
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 health advocates. Whatever we do, art is always at our core. From the Breast Casts to street art to partnering with Shepard Fairey, it comes back to art, education, awareness, and action.
- 3. Many people are familiar with the popular “I LOVE BOOBIES” bracelets from KAB, which are just one way you help fund your incredible education and support programs. What are some of KAB’s main initiatives?
We just launched a new tool called The Keep A Breast App, an exciting replacement for our former Check Yourself! App. In the app, you can schedule your monthly self-check based on your menstrual cycle so you know your “normal”, learn how it’s done, and even contact our partner at Carbon Health if you find something not normal for your body for a virtual appointment. Other features include, stories from breast cancer survivors, breast health resources, in-app rewards, and more!
This year is the 20th anniversary of Keep A Breast and we’re highlighting this milestone with the aspect of our work that started it all: the KAB Breast Cast. This October, we’re launching the Keep A Breast Nashville Collection & Breast Cancer Prevention Campaign. The women in this exhibition represent strong, fierce, and empowering individuals. They were selected to honor women in their lives who have been affected by breast cancer, who they have lost to breast cancer, or simply to celebrate the healthy breasts that they have. They chose to be included in this exhibition to create a conversation around breast cancer in their communities. The Nashville KAB Collection features artists, musicians, activists, politicians, athletes, influencers, and survivors.
Every year in October we launch Fit 4 Prevention, a movement with the goal to inspire people to reduce their risk of cancers by adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle in a way that sparks their inner champion. This year is no different! At fit4prevention.org, you can attend or host a virtual workout class and fundraise for Keep A Breast’s work and mission.
We also have a prevention education program called Non Toxic Revolution with the mission 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. There we share recipes, safe products, and lifestyle shifts to help lower your risk of breast cancer and become your own health advocate.
- 4. What was the inspiration behind your new monthly donation program, The Prevention League?
For our 20th anniversary we wanted to launch something that represented the next generation of Keep A Breast and give our supporters a chance to be a part of our work by donating to The Keep A Breast foundation on an ongoing basis.
We aren’t much for “business as usual;” at KAB, we like to challenge the status quo and start tough conversations. We love boobies, we know that prevention is the cure, and every day that we can help someone lower their risk of developing breast cancer is a rad day. Right now, our individual health is under attack. More than ever, we have to be our own health advocates.
We started The Prevention League to build a movement that gives citizens around the world the breast health education and access to support they deserve. It’s a great opportunity for people to share their stories, financially support KAB’s work, and receive behind-the-scenes content, KAB goodies, learn about non-toxic products to incorporate into their wellness routines, and receive exclusive discounts from our brand partners.
- 5. As consumers, how can we all work towards a world with fewer toxic chemicals in our foods and household products?
We don’t want to overwhelm people with changing every product right away because that is usually not possible, sustainable, or even accessible. To expose yourself to less toxic chemicals in your personal life, start with the products you use every single day because these will build up over time. For many people, that means starting with products like toothpaste, deodorant, skin care, soap—whatever you must use on a daily basis. When we use that many products that contain potential carcinogens, the levels of those chemicals build up past the safety mark.
Many chemicals used in personal care, such as parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan, and fragrance, have been directly linked to cancer and other diseases. Luckily, there are many great companies that produce non-toxic cosmetics, personal care, and cleaning products to keep our bodies free of as many toxins as we can control. Many are available online and at mainstream drugstores. Check out Non Toxic Revolution to switch your deodorant to non-toxic, and download Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living App to scan products in-store so you can shop smart and non-toxic!
Creating a demand for better products is awesome, but it’s not just consumers’ responsibility to change a system of unregulated toxic chemicals. We work with partners, like Women's Voices for the Earth, who are pushing legislation that requires ingredient testing, disclosure, and safer chemical replacements. We urge everyone to start having conversations with friends and family about toxic chemicals in the products we’re sold so we can be our own health advocates and demand action from corporations and the government.
- 6. Keep A Breast is unique in its focus on early detection and prevention rather than solely cancer research. What are the top three things a person can do to lower their risk of breast cancer?
Yes! Our dream would be a world without breast cancer. It would be incredible if there was a cure out there that was accessible to all women everywhere. Science is amazing, and thanks to massive advancements being made every day, we continue to have hope for a cure. Until then, we stay strong on our path and commitment to prevention. We work hard to educate as many people as possible around the world about early detection to improve their chances of survival. We continue to support survivors by bringing them healing experiences.
Our top three tips for prevention:
- Do your monthly self-check with The Keep A Breast App so you know your normal and know when something is wrong. Early detection is key and giving love to your body by checking in with it can save your life.
- Move your body in a way that makes you feel good. Some studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week can lower your risk of breast cancer by 30-50 percent. Exercise boosts your T-cells, which strengthens your immune system and helps you fight cancer cells.
- De-stress for your health! The world is always stressful, but even more so at this moment. Long-term stress can open the door for breast cancer by increasing blood flow to tumors, feeding hormones that encourage tumor growth, and keeping your body in a constant state of inflammation. A few great ways to de-stress are to make sure you get enough sleep, listen to your favorite music when you feel stress coming on, meditate, practice digital detoxes daily, visualize a less stressful situation to trigger relaxation, and hang out with your friends. Find a de-stressor that works for you, and practice it regularly.
You can get involved with KAB by attending, or hosting, a Fit 4 Prevention donation class this October, or join The Prevention League to support their ongoing work. Follow @keepabreast on Instagram to keep up with all their programs this October and beyond.
Throughout the month of October, you can also support Keep A Breast by purchasing GoMacro’s Cherries + Berries MacroBars. For the fifth year in a row, a percentage of net proceeds from our Sunny Uplift bar go directly to the Keep A Breast Foundation.