The Breast Life Project
For so many women, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is more than a symbolic pink ribbon.
For Bethany Swanquist, MS, Holistic Nutritionist, this couldn't be more true. At 9 years of age, she lost her mother to breast cancer.
She has created a nonprofit, The Breast Life Project, that provides complementary natural therapy and green beauty education and funding for women with breast cancer.
I'm so honored to share with you her story and mission. I am so in awe and inspired by her kindness and caring.
What was the catalyst for starting The Breast Life Project?
My mom, who was a dietitian, passed away from breast cancer when I was 9 years old, so I learned first-hand the effect this disease can have on a family. I witnessed how she suffered and the toll the cancer treatment took on her body. I decided to follow in my mom’s footsteps and became a nutritionist after seeing the impact that nutrition had on people’s health during my time working as an assistant dietary manager at a nursing home.
After working in the holistic cancer field for a few years as a nutritionist in private practice, what I realized was that:
- Women didn’t know about complementary therapies they could safely include in their treatment,
- they’ve heard about these therapies, but were overwhelmed by the information out there, or
- they couldn’t afford them because most are not covered by insurance.
I also know how effective and powerful these complementary therapies can be because I witnessed it with my clients. I wanted this information and these services to be available to those who need it most, women with breast cancer, so they could safely and effectively incorporate them into their treatment. I’ve also made it my personal mission to help prevent children losing their mothers to breast cancer and The Breast Life Project is part of that mission.
Tell me a little more about your mission and who your non-profit supports.
The mission of The Breast Life Project is to help women live fully and beautifully through breast cancer and beyond by providing complementary natural therapy and green beauty education and funding for women with breast cancer and survivors.
We want women to feel as much like themselves as possible as they go through their treatment and after by using therapies like acupuncture, breathwork, chiropractic as well as fashion and clean makeup and personal care products. It’s a transformative experience, and The Breast Life Project is meant to be a support system for women all going through the same thing.
Let's talk a little about breast cancer. How has the outlook on a breast cancer diagnosis changed over the last few years, and how are women coping with, and fighting it today, that may look different from years past?
According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a woman. It is the most common cancer among American women, and incidences have only raised slightly over the last few years. I think what has changed is the amount of information that is available to us at our fingertips. That can be good or bad. We don’t know what we read is accurate or safe, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
I also think a lot more women and oncologists are open to trying natural therapies as they become more well known, researched, and popularized. Other factors that have changed and have an impact on risk are increased exposure to endocrine disruptors, exogenous hormones, or environmental toxins.
Endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormones) are most commonly found in conventional beauty and personal care products, which is why it’s important to read labels and use products like yours (Laurmé) that are safe, natural, and effective.
Exogenous hormones can be found in dairy products and meat, and all of us are exposed to environmental toxins every day, but we can minimize our exposure by using safe cleaning products, using air filters, avoiding many plastic items, etc.
We’re learning that cancer is a multifaceted disease, and it needs to be treated and prevented as such. Only about 85-90% of breast cancer is from an inherited predisposition (i.e. BRCA gene), which means up to 15% is caused by many factors we have control over, like the ones mentioned here.
Immunotherapies are also becoming more widely used because they’re a personalized approach to treat cancer based on the type of tumor. This type of treatment uses the patient’s own immune system to kill off cancer cells.
Being a board certified nutritionist must give you a slightly different perspective on preventing as well as confronting breast cancer. Can you tell me a little about how your nutrition background plays a part in how you approach your outreach programs and the discussions you have with other women on your podcast?
Nutrition will always be at the core of The Breast Life Project because of how powerful it is at helping fight and prevent cancer, but I also know that’s not the only piece to the puzzle. Just like nutrition is not just about food, cancer is not just about nutrition. So, like I mentioned, because we’re multifaceted people, we need a multifaceted approach.
When I choose the guests and presenters I have for the podcast or events, I make sure that we have the same core values and goals in mind to support and help the women who listen. I want to share and expose women to all of their options so they can hear from experts and decide for themselves if it’s something they’d like to try.
It is all evidence-based, supportive, inclusive, and meant to be uplifting, empowering, and healing. It’s meant to bring hope and help the person as a whole. Each person who is part of the Project is truly there because they want to make a difference in these women’s lives.
Finding out that or someone you know has breast cancer can be overwhelming, to say the least. Where should someone start in order to find answers and support outside the medical office?
Of course The Breast Life Project is happy to help or answer any questions, and as a board certified holistic nutritionist, I am always here to serve and help.
Other great resources include your local naturopathic oncologist (https://oncanp.org/), these books: Breasts: The Owner’s Manual by Kristi Funk, The Definitive Guide to Cancer by Lise N. Alschuler, ND, FABNO and Karolyn A. Gazella, Radical Remission by Kelly A. Turner, and your local support groups, like Gilda’s Club, which is an amazing organization.
I love what you are doing with The Breast Life Project and feel it's a platform that so many women can benefit from. What's next for your journey?
That’s a great question, Michele. Like most of us, COVID has caused some road bumps and blocks for us that we are still trying to figure out. Because women going through breast cancer treatment are immuno-compromised,we will most likely not be having any in-person events or fundraisers any time soon like we originally envisioned.
We will continue to share valuable information online through our social media platforms, YouTube channel, podcast, and soon-to-be website, and will be hosting online events and giveaways to help support women from afar. We hope to be able to do all this and more in person as soon as it’s safe.
If people are interested in learning more, where can they find you and the work you are doing?
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Michele, and all the support you’ve given The Breast Life Project! You are so appreciated, and your company and mission are just beautiful!
Visit Bethany over on IG, @thebreastlifeproject, and enter her Giveaway for a glow-inspiring Essentials Bundle.