OCEANSIDE — This was not your mother’s breast cancer awareness event. Young breast cancer survivors and homeopathic health and wellness professionals gathered at the Keep a Breast event at Siv Tackle Circus gallertique Oct. 12 to share information on breast cancer and tips on healthier living. The event combined art, music and fun “girl” activities, like adding hair extensions, making flip-flops and applying false eyelashes to get people in the door and get the word out about breast health.
Central to the event was a moving exhibit of 50 handpainted plaster casts of breast cancer survivors. “A year ago, I asked Keep a Breast if they’d mind documenting the fact I only had one breast since I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and I’d had my mastectomy,” Amanda Nixon of San Diego said. “It was a wonderful experience.” Nixon saw the finished painted cast at a Keep A Breast event. “I was at the Roxy Think Pink Day and Shaney (Shaney Jo Darden, Keep A Breast, cofounder and executive director) brought out this amazingly beautiful cast. I was so moved I started crying in front of tons of people. I think it moved the audience as well because this is what Keep a Breast is all about, it’s about keeping both your breasts.”
Nixon was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at age 27 and now has two years “out,” since recovery. Women are considered reasonably safe from cancer returning five years out from recovery and solid by 10 years out, but still there are no guarantees.
“Over a lifetime, about one in eight women (in the United States) is going to be diagnosed with breast cancer and that number is actually expected to grow,” Dr. Amanda Ward of the Breast Health and Wellness Center said. “We used to think there was a very high genetic link, now we know only one in 10 women who get breast cancer have any history at all, so that puts the focus on things you can control.”
Diet, exercise and environmental factors are now looked at as causes of breast cancer and also ways to reduce the risk through healthy choices, like eating a low-sugar, whole foods diet, exercising regularly and avoiding heating foods in plastics. “We know now some environmental things are getting into our body and effecting our breast tissue,” Ward said. “If you can, avoid xenoestrogens which are chemicals in the environment that bind to our breast tissue. Those can be found in plastics.” Xenoestrogens are released when plastic is heated and leach into food or water that is in the plastic container. Women are warned not to microwave food in plastic containers or leave plastic water bottles in the car where they can heat up.
Women are also urged to become comfortable with their bodies so they can be more aware when something is “different” which may be a sign something is wrong. “I had inflammatory breast cancer which does not have a lump,” Nixon said. “My breasts turned purple and that was a huge warning sign for me that something wasn’t right. I was turned away by several doctors who said that there’s scar tissue, there’s an infection, it took me awhile to actually be diagnosed with breast cancer.”
“When you first find out about it, its shocking, you kind of go into denial,” Sue Martori, of Phoenix, Ariz., said. “Asking yourself, ‘What was I doing that this occurred?’ Then you go into, ‘What can I do now?’” Even after being armed with extensive knowledge and a wider range of health choices and support groups, Martori says breast cancer is still a journey a woman goes through on her own and needs to be strong to get through.