“ What I would say FOR SURE is to get a second and third opinions. In many cases with breast cancer there are just so many types of cancer and so many new types of treatments and studies that it’s best to have an army of people out there with awesome credentials giving you their very best so you can make the best choice for you.
Shaney jo Darden is one creative mAss Kicker! Shaney jo is the founder of one of the most unique cancer organizations we have encountered, Keep A Breast! Their “I love boobies” campaign has grabbed international attention and they are set to launch their biggest global campaign to date on October 1, called #checkyourselfie, a social media initiative that will ask young people to conduct monthly breast self-checks. Shaney jo has a very strong background in fashion and design! She was a denim designer for Sole Technology and DC Shoes then transferred her creativity to breast cancer advocacy. She came up with the idea of casting breasts and having artists customize them for breast cancer awareness! We finally met her in Las Vegas this spring! We were very fortunate to catch her in some downtime to ask her a few questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Shaney jo! First question… What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
SJD: Luckily my direct relationship to cancer is slim, My mom is super healthy and my dad has just experienced a close call with prostate cancer but he’s doing fine. On the other hand, Cancer is my entire life, I have dedicated my life to spreading the word about cancer prevention to the world.
mK: How did you get stated in Cancer Advocacy?
SJD: In 2000, my friend Mona’s mother had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and so was another friend of ours named Margaret Kilgallen. We were looking for something to do -some way to give back – and we couldn’t find anything interesting; everything we found just seemed boring.
I wanted to do something that really resonated with our peers. Mona and I were putting together large art and fashion events at the time called MODART, and we thought, “Why not an art show!?” So we asked all of our artist friends if they wanted to paint on breast casts and the idea of our breast casts was born. In the beginning I never intended on starting a non-profit. It just happened very organically and with the help of my peers and supporters. I always say this job chose me. I was meant to be on this earth to educate young people about breast cancer prevention.
Our vision is a world without breast cancer, but until then our mission is to educate young people about their risk and ways of living a healthy non toxic lifestyle, with the reality that young people can and do get breast cancer but hopefully they had education available so they were able to catch it early.
mK: It’s always good to catch these diseases EARLY! How did you come up with the unique idea of breast casting art?
SJD: I came up with the concept of having artists paint breast casts, which was inspired by Frida Kahlo, because she had worn a cast after breaking her back. Frida had made beauty out of a painful situation. That was the original inspiration. To me the breast cast is a way of showing the beauty in every person casted. Every body is beautiful and has a story to tell, through art and community we are able to do something unique and special all in the name of Keep A Breast.
mK: This sounds like a TLSO back brace from physical rehabilitation. Cool! What motivates you?
SJD: I’m motivated by the fact that I know my life is being used for good and to help others. I know the work I am doing is meaningful, appreciated and necessary. I’m motivated my my little nephews, I want to be a good aunt and see them grow up, my brother and his wife are amazing parents so no worries there, I just want to enjoy them as much as I can.
mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
SJD: One of my hero’s is Yvon Chouinader form Patagonia. My life totally changed when I read his book, let my people go surfing. It was at a time when I was struggling with how to balance work and life and how to manage such a quickly growing non profit. He helped me see that I could use all my passion and creativity and steer it all in one beautiful handmade patchwork quilt that is Keep A Breast.
mK: Cool! We’ll def check that out! What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
SJD: Just this question make’s me cry, I’m a softie. I love to laugh and I’m usually cracking up all the time, I love to make others laugh and smile. I actually really try to be funny when I’m with my friends, It does not come natural to me. I cry at youtube video’s almost everyday. Lies make me angry, I believe in honestly and transparency, I get upset when the general public is being lied to about what is safe to eat, wear, breathe, etc…
mK: Emotions are what make us human. What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
SJD: Wow good question. I’ve been so fortunate to do so many interesting things. When I was 24 I went backpacking all around Europe by myself. I reflect back on that time and my experiences all the time. I’ve gone sky diving, I did yoga teacher training, I went to a black sand beach in china, I went one week without speaking at a silent mediation retreat in Mexico and I just fell in love all over again at the top of the empire state building.
mK: Wow! You have done some pretty cool stuff! Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
SJD: I think the toughest part of it is that any survivors will never be the same again. Although so many survivors I know and love have been able to see some type of gift or silver lining in their disease, there will always be that part of them that they never asked for that is part of their life that they have to deal with forever, weather it’s emotional or physical it’s always there. That is why I love and appreciate my friends at Stupid Cancer and Young Survival Coalition. They offer amazing resources and a community for all types of cancer survivors.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
SJD: pizza, fancy drinks, expensive candles, sleeping in, chocolate anything.
mK: Why does everyone feel guilty about eating chocolate? HAHAHA! Here’s a strange question for ya… If you were elected the leader of Planet Earth, what would be the first global law you would pass.
SJD: Ban all toxic chemicals that our in our foods and products. It’s proven that many of these chemicals that are in our everyday lives all around us, in us an don us are causing disease.
mK: What are you up to now?
SJD: October, which is global breast cancer prevention month, is my busiest time of year. We just launched our Check Yourself app in 5 different countries and in English, Spanish French and Japanese. You can download it for free in the intunes and android store. It’s a super simple cool app that shows you how to do your self-check and also allows you to set a push notification reminder.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
SJD: This is a tough question for me because gratefully I have not been diagnosed with anything besides the crazy over achiever disorder. What I would say FOR SURE is to get a second and third opinions. In many cases with breast cancer there are just so many types of cancer and so many new types of treatments and studies that it’s best to have an army of people out there with awesome credentials giving you their very best so you can make the best choice for you.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
SJD: I have an elephant collection. When I was a baby my first stuffed animal was an elephant, from there on out I loved elephants. One summer when I was 8, I was bored and that was when cabbage patch kids were really popular, so my mom had this genius idea to keep me busy and had me make birth certificates and a photo album for all my elephants, by hand.
mK: HAHAHA! Awesome! Do you still have those “birth certificates?” Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
SJD: Please participate in our campaign this October. We want people to take the #checkyourselfie pledge in October to make a commitment to check their boobies once a month. Head to checkyourselfie.org for more info.
Shaney jo Darden: Stuffed Elephant Birth Certificate Registrar, classic overachiever, anti-toxic chemical advocate, candle lighter, Chocolate junkie, adventure seeker, creative breast cancer advocate, and all-around cool lady! Check out the MKF Keep A Breast profile! We’ll def help promote the #checkyourselfie social media campaign this October for breast cancer prevention month!