We interviewed Cynthia Curchwell, 5 times New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker who has collectively raised over $15,000 for breast cancer prevention about her motivations for hiking and fundraising to eliminate the causes of breast cancer. Read More
Q&A with Cynthia Churchwell, New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker
New England Peaks for Prevention is an annual fundraising climb up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The idea for this mountain climb originated with Deb Cole, a breast cancer survivor, who previously climbed Mt. Shasta in California as part of BCPP’s annual Climb Against the Odds expedition. Deb wanted to create a New England version of her experience and sought out the perfect mountain. She found that in Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the eastern United States. Deb worked with the Appalachian Mountain Club to organize a hut to hut hike to the summit, and in 2014 New England Peaks for Prevention (NEPP) was born. Over the past six years climbers have raised over $477,000 for breast cancer prevention.
Cynthia is a 5-time New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker who has collectively raised $15,000 for breast cancer prevention. We’re thankful that she shared with us the story of how she connected with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and her motivations for hiking and fundraising to eliminate the causes of breast cancer.
Who are you?
I enjoy my job as a university librarian and have fun doing crafty things like knitting and baking. I love life with my husband and cat. I am a runner, and, of course, a hiker!
What years have you hiked New England Peaks for Prevention (NEPP)?
I had the privilege of participating in the very first NEPP in 2014, and hiked the next 3 consecutive years. The 5th year I supported hikers and then came back the 6th year, 2019, to hike again because I missed that part of the experience.
Why did you decide to hike?
I learned of BCPP because it was the non-profit partner of Luna Chix, sports groups in cities across the U.S. sponsored by Clif Bar encouraging women to get outside and be active. I raised money for BCPP as a member of Luna Chix Boston Run and personally when I ran my first marathon. I knew of the BCPP Mt. Shasta fundraising hike (Climb Against the Odds), but that was more ambitious than I wanted. As soon as the NEPP hike appeared as a BCPP event, I knew it was something I should sign up for.
I thought it would be a fun way of adding a more meaningful experience to fundraising. I was struck by the fact that someone who peaked Mt. Shasta personally created a more accessible opportunity for others to have a similar experience. Deb is a powerhouse of joy and positivity! I could tell she was a special person, but meeting Deb in person solidified I would have a great time no matter what; and I did.
I met many other wonderful people that first year too. By creating NEPP, Deb sparked friendships and created a community. I now have Jen Avery, Nancy Buermeyer, and Roni Widmer as friends and am glad to have NEPP as a way to reconnect with them every year. See Roni, Nancy, Jen, and me the year we met.
How has breast cancer impacted your life?
My college roommate died way too young, and a long-time friend is a survivor of a double mastectomy.
Why is breast cancer prevention important to you?
The efforts of BCPP make simple sense to me. Cures are important, but eliminating the *causes* of breast cancer has an even greater impact. BCPP’s results reach beyond breast cancer to other cancers and other ailments. Nancy Buermeyer and Janet Gray are personable knowledgeable spokespersons, and getting to know them and their work has given me greater insight about the importance of BCPP.
What is your favorite memory from NEPP?
My fondness of NEPP stems from how Deb brought together such a wonderful group of people and that we enjoy each other so much we keep coming back. Several people have returned for all the hikes and I enjoy reconnecting with Jen, Roni, and Nancy, and helping new people have as memorable an experience as I do. I first signed up for the hike not knowing anyone else ahead of time and was fortunate Jen, Roni, and Nancy adopted me as an additional hiking buddy into their group. Something just clicked, and I’ve stayed connected to them and look forward to seeing them at the hike every year. Thank you Jen, Roni, and Nancy for befriending me, and thank you Deb for creating the opportunity! I’ve been fortunate enough to have great supporters over the years, and I thank each of them too!
What is your top tip for training?
If you think you’ve trained enough, train some more! 🙂 It’s difficult to be in too good a shape, for anything, and I usually wish I had spent more time prepping.
Why should others (survivors, moms, etc) care about hiking in the name of prevention?
Breast cancer prevention benefits everyone in some way. It is avoiding a diagnosis or losing a loved one. It is also using products, eating food, and breathing air that’s not contaminated. BCPP has breast cancer as the target, but the impact of the work is so broad-reaching. BCPP deserves our support, financial and otherwise, because prevention is a beginning to healthier, happier lives. It’s a win-win. Hike it!
Anything else we should know?
New England Peaks for Prevention can be enjoyed by novices and experts. I encourage you to try it; I bet you’ll like it.
On January 8, I joined 24 women in Sacramento to ask members of the California Assembly to support the California Toxic Free Cosmetic’s Act (AB 495). This bill would ban 13 of the most toxic chemicals currently being used in cosmetics in America; all of these chemicals are banned in the EU.Read More
By BCPP Digital Advocacy Coordinator Kathryn Bache
On January 8, I joined 24 women in Sacramento to ask members of the California Assembly to support the California Toxic Free Cosmetic’s Act (AB 495). This bill would ban 13 of the most toxic chemicals currently being used in cosmetics in America; all of these chemicals are banned in the EU.
These were breast cancer survivors, advocates, and clean beauty company representatives; some woman were all three. We all came to the capital interested in sharing our stories about why the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act was so important to us:
Breast cancer survivors want to limit their exposure to carcinogens because they are especially at risk of a reoccurrence.
Advocates like us at BCPP, along with our fellow co-sponsors of AB 495, EWG and CalPIRG, have heard from our supporters that removing toxic chemicals from personal care products is a top concern.
Clean beauty companies know that there is a better way to formulate personal care and beauty products that is non-toxic, and you can make money doing it.
I also have a more personal reason to advocate for the California Toxic Free Cosmetics Act. I am a mother to two small children. I work full time. I don’t feel like I should have to spend extra energy reading the back of a label to see if there are chemicals in my cosmetics products that scientists know cause cancer or disrupt our hormone systems.
Why is it up to me to look for formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers on the back of a baby shampoo bottle when it can go by as many of 15 different names? Why was most mercury use banned in 1974 but still allowed in my eye cream (a necessary luxury for a mom with a lot of interrupted sleep)? How can it be that we have a national conversation about PFAS contamination in our water supply and cosmetics companies are still intentionally adding PFAS to their mascara and eye liner?
I came to work for BCPP when I was pregnant with my second child. I learned to read labels and avoid parabens and phthalates. I had to throw away some wonderful gifts from friends and family because they included ingredients that would harm my new baby girl or myself. The more I train myself to shop better, the angrier I become that so much of my mental space is taken up by this information.
If the science is clear, as it is with all 13 chemicals banned by the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act, these chemicals should be banned from cosmetics. Banning cancer causing chemicals and hormone disruptors from cosmetics would free me to buy the product on the shelf with a giraffe on it (my son’s favorite animal) or choose maybe the cheaper of the two toothpastes without having to check what lurks on the back label.
I told all this to the staffers and legislators in Sacramento who met us on our lobby day. Each woman told her story in January about why the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act is necessary to make the lives of everyone in California safer. Even though this bill didn’t make it out of Assembly Health Committee at the end of January, we will continue to advocate for banning these chemicals in cosmetics. We look forward to reintroducing the bill next month.
Everyone needs to hear the story that these chemicals are allowed in cosmetics, they are harmful to our health, and we can take them out if we pass the California Toxic Free Cosmetics Act.
Learn the top 4 ways climate change can increase your breast cancer risk. What comes with a hotter world? Greater toxicity.Read More
By Emily Reuman, BCPP Technology & Communications Manager
Top 4 ways climate change may increase your risk of breast cancer:
- Hotter temps make it harder for our bodies to cleanse by breaking down and getting rid of toxic chemicals.
- Hotter temps make cancer chemicals like pesticides more harmful to our bodies.
- Severe weather events can pollute the water we drink.
- Hotter temps mean more volatile toxic chemical pollution in the air we breathe.
“System change- not climate change!”
What comes with a hotter world? Greater toxicity. It’s a big deal because 90% of breast cancer cases are likely linked to factors including environmental exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation. Only around 10% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to genetics.
While you’re letting that sink in, let’s get to the bottom of what ‘greater toxicity’ means. It comes in multiple forms. First off, some chemicals of concern for breast cancer, like pesticides, are literally more harmful to our health at higher temperatures.[i]
Breast cancer risks rise with greater toxicity from harmful chemicals.
And you’ve probably heard about severe weather events like storms, hurricanes, and floods. Well, increased storm, flooding, and water runoff, from a rise in the number and severity of weather events, are projected to lead to chemical contamination of water sources.[ii] Think, cancer-causing pesticides from lawns, gardens, and crops, washing into your streams, watersheds, and water reservoirs.
In those flooding events, hazardous chemicals are released such as formaldehyde, a carcinogen, from manufactured wood products and plasticizing chemicals from flooring and other furniture[iii].
Granted, climate change is projected to shift regional precipitation patterns. Some areas are more likely to see more precipitation, like rain and storms, while others will see less. Unfortunately, less precipitation carries other toxic risks.
Areas that see less rainfall may experience a higher level of airborne (volatile) persistent organic pollutants (POPs), like some pesticides linked to breast cancer, in the atmosphere.[iv] POPs are chemicals that do not break down in the environment over time. Instead, they stick around and can cause illness.
“There is no planet B.”
Less precipitation is also expected to increase air pollution in urban areas, which means greater exposure to harmful chemicals linked to breast cancer.
And while hotter temperatures intensify the toxicity of chemicals like air pollutants and pesticides, they also weaken our bodies’ ability to cope.[v] Hotter temperatures make it harder for our bodies to break down and get rid of toxic chemicals (i.e. detoxify) by weakening our natural metabolism and excretion processes.
According to a study on global climate change published in the journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry[vi]:
Environmental variables altered by global climate chance (GCC), like temperature, precipitation, salinity, and pH, can influence the toxicokinetics of chemical absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion as well as toxicodynamic interactions between chemicals and target molecules. In addition, GCC challenges processes critical for coping with the external environment (water balance, thermoregulation, nutrition, and the immune, endocrine, and neurological systems), leaving organisms sensitive to even slight perturbations by chemicals when pushed to the limits of their physiological tolerance range.
In other words, rising temperatures make us more sensitive to chemical stressors like toxic chemicals. Our bodies’ natural systems for keeping us healthy are less able to cope, which makes us more susceptible to breast cancer and other diseases.
All in all, climate change means an increased risk of breast cancer for all of us, especially people in places that are hard hit by extreme weather events facing chemical contamination and air pollution. It’s easy to hold climate change at arm’s reach, as a distant environmental problem, causing flooding in places far from home and the extinction of rare species. But it’s more than that—it’s a global health problem that’s about to get worse.
Already breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. Those are our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, families, and communities. It’s time that the U.S. stepped up and addressed climate change to prevent breast cancer before it starts.
While I’ll never really know what caused my breast cancer (I have no genetic link), the thought of potentially harmful ingredients being in the products that I used, makes me really angry. We shouldn’t have to wonder if the cosmetics or personal care products we used, caused our cancer.Read More
Guest Post by Sarah Clark, Breast Cancer Survivor
Hi, my name is Sarah Clark. And I’m a breast cancer survivor. I’m married with two kids, a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. I’m also a consultant and educator with Beautycounter. I wholeheartedly believe in healthy living and that knowledge is power. Whether it’s food, our environment or products we use on our skin every day – I’m all about supporting companies that are transparent and honest.
Currently, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the US, and that number is way too high. While I’ll never really know what caused my breast cancer (I have no genetic link), the thought of potentially harmful ingredients being in the products that I used, makes me really angry. We shouldn’t have to wonder if the cosmetics or personal care products we used, caused our cancer.
I was most surprised to learn that the labels on products don’t really mean anything in the US and that fragrance can basically contain a slew of ingredients that could potentially be harmful. Because fragrance ingredients don’t have to be disclosed, there’s no way to know what’s really in those products that contain fragrance. So, all the other ingredients in a product could be safe, but dangerous ingredients could be hiding in the fragrance.
We need federal cosmetic safety reform.
It’s frustrating to not know what’s really in the products we use and put on our kids. My search for safer products was the result of my son’s very sensitive skin when he was a baby and I couldn’t figure out why he’d still react to products labeled “safe”, “natural”, “sensitive skin.” It wasn’t until I heard about the lack of regulation in the US that it all made sense. Now, I try to educate everyone I can about the importance of being aware of what’s in the products they use.
Cosmetic safety reform affects every single one of us. What we’re using, what we’re putting on our babies and our kids, what our family members are using, none of us should be exposed to ingredients that are known to cause harm. Reducing our toxic load is important and not being exposed to endocrine disruptors (which are common in cosmetics and personal care products) is a really big deal for our developing children.
Having gone through 8 rounds of chemo and 20 radiation sessions last year, reducing the toxic load on my body while going through those treatments was very important to me. I used safer products and ate cleaner foods, and had little to no side effects, I think in part because my body didn’t have to filter out toxic ingredients and could just focus on the chem and radiation. Anyone who has been affected by cancer either personally or because of a loved one, should take care to avoid products with potentially harmful ingredients. It’s just not worth the risk.
It's time for a better beauty industry. We need your help!
Send a message to your congressional representative
Connect with Sarah
- IG: @betterhealth.betterbeauty
- FB group: better health.better beauty
- FB page: Beautycounter by Sarah Clark
California bill SB 574 would have been the first bill in the world to force companies to publicly disclose the fragrance and flavor chemicals in their beauty and personal care products. Though it did not pass in 2019, a new federal bill, the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, would require full fragrance and flavor ingredient disclosure on a company’s website and disclosure of a product’s toxic fragrance and flavor ingredients on the product label.Read More
Janet Nudelman, BCPP Director of Program & Policy and Director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
California bill SB 574 would have been the first bill in the world to force companies to publicly disclose the fragrance and flavor chemicals in their beauty and personal care products. Though it did not pass in 2019, a new federal bill, the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, would require full fragrance and flavor ingredient disclosure on a company’s website and disclosure of a product’s toxic fragrance and flavor ingredients on the product label. One bill after another, we’re stopping at nothing to move the needle toward cosmetics safety, transparency, and full ingredient disclosure.
In the spring of 2019, BCPP partnered with Black Women for Wellness and Women’s Voices for the Earth in cosponsoring the California Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act (SB 574 – Leyva). Our team:
- Testified at 4 policy committee hearings in the Senate and Assembly alongside the bill author Senator Leyva;
- Took over 30 amendments to the bill which neutralized the industry opposition;
- And brought 15 lobby teams of hair stylists, breast cancer survivors, clean beauty companies and NGOs to meet with 71 legislative offices to discuss this important bill.
We did everything we could. Still, at the eleventh hour, the bill was killed quietly, held on the Assembly Appropriations Committee suspense file. Given the broad-based support for the bill, NO public industry opposition, and NO price tag, we expected it to sail through the Appropriations Committee. The bill’s surprise end came as a huge shock.
Despite this setback, we are proud of the amazing coalition of partners who joined together with us in support of safe cosmetics, the legislators we educated on toxic chemicals and women’s health, and how far we advanced this bill. With so much good work accomplished this year, we remain committed and plan to sponsor a new California fragrance disclosure bill next year. It’s not unusual for bills to take a few years to pass in California, given that bills enacted will typically impact all 50 states.
On the bright side, while this California bill waits, we are also working to pass a meaningful, health protective federal cosmetic safety bill, the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Act of 2019 (Schakowsky). The two bills complement each other nicely, given that the Schakowsky bill gives consumers fragrance information at the point of purchase, while the California bill aggregates this information in one publicly accessible database for consumers. Of course, the federal cosmetics bill also contains other great provisions that will make cosmetics safer, like immediately banning 20 known toxic chemicals from cosmetics.
Help us pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Act of 2019 today!
Send a message to your congressmember right now through our action center.
We believe that change occurs when the public is educated and engaged, when companies adopt safe use and chemical disclosure policies, and when state and federal governments enact laws that protect everyone from chemicals linked to breast cancer and other diseases. Which is why we’ll continue to advocate for full fragrance ingredient disclosure through public education, corporate accountability campaigns, and state and federal advocacy.
Thank you to all our supporters who worked so hard on SB 574. We are so proud of the work we accomplished this year and the amazing coalition we built. We look forward to continuing this important work next year.
We need you!
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in meeting with your state or federal legislators to advocate for safe cosmetics. Or take action online by sending a message to your member of Congress right now.
For us at BCPP, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness is our chance to shine extra light on prevention. We teamed up with our partners in prevention to show you businesses that support BCPP and do pink products the right way: by valuing the health of people and the planet. Read More
For us at BCPP, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness is our chance to shine extra light on prevention. Most people don’t realize that only around 10% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to genetics. What does that mean? It means that most incidences of breast cancer are likely linked to other factors including environmental exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation.
Want to know more? Read about breast cancer science 101 and share with a friend!
We teamed up with our partners in prevention to show you businesses that support BCPP and do pink products the right way: by valuing the health of people and the planet. Check out the great products below that we picked out just for you.
Crunchi is committed to creating clean beauty products that are high-performance and toxic free. We are setting a new standard for cosmetic safety, and ultimately, redefining what it means to be beautiful.
TODAY ONLY, 10/10, Crunchi will donate $5 from every purchase to BCPP. Orders over $150 will receive a Pretty Please blush!
Osprey has long and proudly backed BCPP’s mission. We’ve supported Climb Against the Odds for over 15 years as sponsors and by sending a number of our team members to climb Mt. Shasta for prevention.
Our limited-edition pink Daylite pack sales benefit BCPP. Only available at Osprey.com, while supplies last.
Decorate your home with prevention this month with our: “An Ounce of Prevention” bouquet – a living 6” anthurium plant potted in a ceramic, hand-designed vase. Farmgirl Flowers ethically sources their bouquets and are proud to support farms who pay living wages, avoid harmful chemicals, and have medical benefits for their teams.
For each bouquet purchased, we will donate $5 to support BCPP’s work to stop breast cancer before it starts.
At Balega, community is based on our founding principle, Ubuntu—a respect for humanity built on love and goodwill. We are dedicated to making the finest running socks and to spreading light through the community. This is why we support BCPP and salute the graceful warriors that inspire us all.
$1 from the sale of every Balega Grit & Grace socks benefits BCPP.
CRYSTAL deodorant pioneered mineral-salt deodorant over 35 years ago! Our products work to neutralize the bacteria that causes body odor – unlike ordinary deodorants that cover up odor with harsh chemicals.
We’re proud to support BCPP! Each CRYSTAL purchase made will help support a minimum donation of $10,000.
1MORE, a premium award-wining headphone manufacturer, honors breast cancer awareness month through its partnership with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. Whether you are directly affected or not, 1MORE hopes to bring awareness to this cause.
During October, 1MORE will be donating 10% of all sales from the USA website to BCPP. Get 20% off all pink series products through Oct., USE CODE: BCPP
We’re a team of creators who stand behind our innovative products and love that they help you – an incredible, varied community of filmmakers, vloggers, photographers, and more – share your voices across countless mediums.
This month, we’ll donate 25% of our Pink Limited Edition VXR10 microphone proceeds to BCPP.
REMINDER: These products come from fabulous companies that financially support our efforts to prevent breast cancer, so purchases you make also support BCPP!
Please purchase or donate and share this with your loved ones.
This is Lucy. Lucy represents thousands of little girls of color in the U.S.Read More
This is Lucy.
Lucy represents thousands of little girls of color in the U.S. who are unjustly exposed to toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde, in their hair products.
We know that black women are more likely to die from the disease and get breast cancer at a younger age than other women.
This is why we need beauty companies—especially those that target vulnerable women and children—to disclose all toxic ingredients. We can make this a reality with the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019 (H.R. 4296)!
Last year, our shocking Right to Know fragrance report revealed what was really lurking inside 30+ common personal care products. Turns out, the worst beauty product we found was even more toxic than bathroom cleaner!
The culprit? Just for Me, a kids’ shampoo by Strength of Nature, marketed directly to kids of color. In it, we found a whopping:
This is why little girls like Lucy need your help!
Your dollars go to: uniting our community and business partners around this vital issue; scientific testing and research on dangerous product exposures; and educating legislators to get this bill passed.
Can’t give today?
Ingredients linked to cancer and birth defects should not be allowed to lurk in shampoo, soap, deodorant, lotion, toothpaste, and bubble bath. Enough is enough.
For the first time ever, H.R. 4296 will create the strongest safety standard for make-up and personal care products before they even hit store shelves in the U.S.
Protect yourself and your loved ones from toxic chemicals.
Give today to support our #safecosmetics movement so that we can pass this bill, backed by science, into law!
Thanks in advance,
I’m a glamper, not a camper, so when I signed up for this adventure, naturally I was a bit tense. Three days on Mt. Shasta, sleeping on the snow and having to carry everything that belonged to me, (and I mean everything) only scratches the surface of this epic trip I embarked on.Read More
Guest Post by 2019 Climb Against the Odds climber, Katie Meyer
I’m a glamper, not a camper, so when I signed up for this adventure, naturally I was a bit tense. Three days on Mt. Shasta, sleeping on the snow and having to carry everything that belonged to me, (and I mean everything) only scratches the surface of this epic trip I embarked on.
You’d think a born and bred Colorado girl raised in the San Juan’s would have at least attempted a 14’er summit. But, you’d be wrong. Summiting a mountain, especially one in my backyard, has never been on my bucket list. I like hiking, running water and ‘glamping’ in my queen-sized bed, but getting to the top of a peak was not on my radar. For two years, I watched other Osprey sponsored climbers train and fundraise for this event, and their excitement and nerves inspired me to take on this challenge.
When I signed up, I agreed to not only train for this climb but to also raise $6,000 in support of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ research. I’m proud to say, with the help of my friends, family, and community, I surpassed my goal and raised over $7,000! Together, all of the climbers collectively raised over $340,000 for BCPP – way to go ladies!!
My training included early morning spin classes, LOTS of squats, snowshoeing, a backpacking trip, and many day hikes with my family and friends.
When I landed in Redding, CA, I caught my first glimpse of this majestic mountain. Let me tell ya, she was bigger than ANY mountains we have in Colorado. The beauty and fierceness this peak emanated when I first saw her still leaves me in awe. My first evening in the town of Mt. Shasta was full of laughs and tears as I met the other climbers, heard their inspiring stories, and immediately bonded with them. Many of these powerful women were breast cancer survivors, here to make a difference.
After eight hours by myself in a king-size bed (which as a mother and wife is hard to come by), the day I’d been preparing for for six months had finally arrived. It was time to climb Mount Shasta!
With rental gear on and a backpack full of necessities including my son’s Godzilla toy, we hit the trail. We got to our first camp which was around 8,000 feet and with a few hours of daylight left, our guides taught us some life-saving skills; traversing, self-arrest, and glissading, all things of dire importance while you’re on Mt Shasta. At this point, I’d like to say my nerves had calmed some, but I knew that my adventure was only just beginning. In bed after our first day on Mt Shasta, I thought of my son and my family back home, of my warm bed, and of the security one can only feel while you’re in your comfort zone. My solace at that time were the ladies next to me – the women and their families that were pushed so far out of their comfort zone, not by choice, and still had the bravery and courage to not only fight within but help defeat the disease.
Before we left for our high camp the next morning, we had a powerful ceremony that represented why we were all there. We gathered together in a prayer circle with names of loved ones written on colored prayer flags of whom we were climbing for- mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, everyone we loved that has fought so hard against the cards they were tragically dealt. It was a powerful and moving moment, one that unified us and made us even stronger as a team.
With prayer flags securely fastened to the packs, we set off for our high camp. As we climbed well above the California treeline, the view was nothing short of magical. Our 2 A.M. summit morning was quickly approaching and our guides wanted us ‘horizontal by 5 P.M.’ Pro tip: a neck buff makes a great eye mask. At 1:30 A.M., summit day had begun. We filled our bellies with hot coffee and oatmeal, fastened on crampons, helmet, harness, and shimmied our packs on and began our ascent. Within minutes we were in a slow, methodical rhythm. Step, pole, step, pole, step… An hour into our climb, it was still dark and cold. The lights of the other climbers ahead of us was like a stream of fireflies showing the way. About every hour we’d stop to take a needed break where we’d nosh on jerky and almond butter, (my chosen snack).
As we wordlessly and rhythmically carried on, the sun began to rise and the magnitude of what we were doing began to sink in. I was on this beautiful mountain I’d first laid eyes on just a few days prior, climbing for a cause that resonates deeply with everyone that’s been impacted by breast cancer.
While training for this climb, I learned of a term, ‘summit fever.’ I can comfortably say, I had the fever and more cowbell wasn’t going to help it. Not reaching the summit of Mt. Shasta just wasn’t an option for me. Inevitably, I was going to get to the bottom of that mountain, get on a plane and go home no matter the outcome, so why not push myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before and do just that? At 11,600 feet elevation, 2,500 feet shy of the peak of Mt. Shasta, I reached my personal summit. I realized at that point that I had pushed myself harder than I ever have before. I stepped out of my comfort zone and campaigned for a cause that every one of us can stand behind.
After camp was packed up, we started the long and hot descent of Mt Shasta. Each step came with mixed emotions. Disappointment that I didn’t summit but also an overwhelming feeling of achievement. Every year, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners uses this and many other fundraisers to support their research identifying and eliminating toxins in our everyday environment that are causing breast cancer in women that aren’t genetically predisposed to it.
Coming away from this adventure, I’ve learned my limits. I’ve learned how hard I can push myself, but mostly how easy it is to campaign for something you believe in. I was able to do things on this expedition that I didn’t even know I was capable of. There’s one photo that I have of our high camp. You can see snow, Mt. Shasta and a couple of tents. I love looking at this photo as it represents so much of what I never knew I could ever do. Even though I didn’t reach the summit of Mt. Shasta, I’m so proud of what the other climbers and I were able to accomplish.
Climb Against the Odds is looking for our next team of climbers!
Check out the full itinerary this year and our learn about past climbs through our interactive map journal! Email email@example.com with any questions.
5 Tips for Packing a Safer Lunch – Most people don’t realize that lunch gear commonly contains chemicals like hormone disruptors & carcinogens. These chemicals can seep into the food that you and your kiddos eat. The food you consume can contain hazardous chemicals too!Read More
Go Back to School the Right Way
5 Tips for Packing a Safer Lunch
Most people don’t realize that lunch gear commonly contains chemicals like hormone disruptors & carcinogens. These chemicals can seep into the food that you and your kiddos eat. The food you consume can contain hazardous chemicals too!
What are simple top tips for safer lunch packing?
- Choose a stainless steel or canvas lunchbox. Avoid materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and other plastics, which can contain phthalates, BPA, or BPA substitutes like BPS, and contribute to pollution.
- No single use plastic. Many single-use and reusable plastic water bottles are made with harmful bisphenols like BPA, BPS, or BPF that leach hormone-disrupting chemicals. Use reusable stainless steel (like Klean Kanteen) or glass bottles.
- Pack organic snacks. Organic fresh fruits and veggies are best to avoid cancer-causing pesticides. Choose lean meats and skip the processed lunch meats (like deli meats, salami, hot dogs) which are recognized as cancer-causing. Get Clif Bars, below.
- Swap sandwich bags. Choose biodegradable bags like paper or a cloth wrap. Beeswax wraps (natural fiber cloth, like cotton, coated with wax) are another safe option that keeps leaks contained while keeping your food fresh.
- Stay clean. For easy clean up, use an essential oil-based hand sanitizer. See the Everyone Products, below.
Our partners in prevention are businesses that support BCPP and value the health of people and the planet. Check out the best back to school items below that we picked just for you.
Enjoy botanical body care at a great value with Back to School essentials from Everyone for Every Body. Stock up on our best-selling hand soaps and hand sanitizers to keep hands clean at home and in the classroom.
Receive 25% off our back to school bundles with code BTS2019. Valid through 9/30/19.
Try our curated selection of dorm room favorites from Everyone for Every Body! This bundle includes all the products a college student needs to kick start a new year on campus. This special bundle has your healthy must haves: face cleanser, moisturizer, hand soap and sanitizer, and 3-in-1 soap and lotion.
Receive 25% off this bundle with code BTS2019. Valid through 9/30/19.
At Klean Kanteen, human and environmental safety is our top priority. All Klean Kanteen bottles feature our Klean Coat® finish that has been formulated to remove any chemicals deemed harmful for people and planet. When it comes to a truly clean bottle, trust that Klean Kanteen has your back!
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For me, that climb was the ultimate evidence of the quote, “while I had cancer, it didn’t have me.” I was 53, had never seen a 14,179 foot mountain, never mind climb one and yet in June of 2009, four years after my initial diagnosis, I stood on the summit of Mount Shasta in northern California and soaked in the glorious moments of pure joy, of pure living. Read More
Guest Post by 2009 Climb Against the Odds climber and New England Peaks for Prevention event organizer, Deb Cole
Originally published in Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4.
The spring equinox represents new light and life, new beginnings, but in March of 2005 the dawning of spring brought a darkness I had hoped that I’d never know. Breast cancer. I’d lost my Dad to metastatic prostate cancer when I was in my late 20’s and here I was 20 years later being diagnosed with this most dreaded of diseases.
Prior to my own diagnosis I knew of only one other person who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she was my friend’s mother and she passed away six months before my Dad. To me, cancer meant death.
Upon hearing my own diagnosis, I was terrified. I was suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar world with terms I didn’t understand and treatment options that seemed straight out of my worst nightmares. So I did what I always do, when faced with something I know nothing about, I began to read and research. I needed to make logical sense of what was going to happen to me and what and where my best treatment options were. Thankfully, Boston and its top notch hospitals and doctors were just an hour away and at that time the only doctor in the Northeast who performed the DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap reconstruction was in Boston, and that was the surgery option I decided to pursue.
In the world of breast cancer, I was considered “lucky” to be diagnosed with high grade DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). My treatment required surgery, but no chemotherapy or radiation. At the time I resented doctors telling me how lucky I was; somehow a bi-lateral mastectomy, DIEP flap reconstruction and a sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear as a result of surgery didn’t make me feel “lucky.” I felt damaged and incomplete with the loss of my breasts and my new hearing impairment. I was in desperate need of an outlet to work off my angst and to find myself again.
I started to walk as a means of exercise and to feel like I had control of my life again. At first a few feet was more than I could manage due to the hip to hip incision required for the reconstruction and my friend would move a chair up and down the driveway with me so I could sit down every few minutes. Before long, I was up to a mile and then two and I just kept going from there. I participated in a local “pink” walking event with my family and discovered I was not alone. There were lots of other women and some men just like me who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and they had the support of each other and a much larger caring community. I was hooked! I realized that I could receive the support I needed and I could give something back by raising money to provide education and support to others. I also discovered my passion – prevention. Ultimately, I discovered my new mission. I needed to do whatever I could to prevent breast cancer because of two driving forces, my daughters, Lindsay and Hayley. Hayley was just nine years old when I was diagnosed and Lindsay was 21 and I couldn’t imagine them going through life without a mother or facing a diagnosis in the future themselves. I had to do something.
While working full time at a local University, I managed to dive into all things breast cancer related. For a number of years I captained teams for multi-day breast cancer walks, raising thousands of dollars. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for continued funding of breast cancer research and policy. I completed the Project Lead scientific training courses offered by the National Breast Cancer Coalition. I joined the board of a local breast cancer organization funding research on prevention. I was the project manager of a “Men with Breast Cancer” calendar as well as the cover girl on another calendar.
I was a panelist for a Congressional staff briefing on prevention. I’ve given testimony at my local State House on fragrance. I immersed myself in the breast cancer community to do whatever I could to help make a difference in the lives of those diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2009, I joined a mountaineering expedition called the Climb Against the Odds, the signature event of the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP).
For me, that climb was the ultimate evidence of the quote, “while I had cancer, it didn’t have me.” I was 53, had never seen a 14,179 foot mountain, never mind climb one and yet in June of 2009, four years after my initial diagnosis, I stood on the summit of Mount Shasta in northern California and soaked in the glorious moments of pure joy, of pure living. I will forever be grateful to my East Coast teammates, who made sure we all stood on the summit together.
Arriving back in Rhode Island, high on that mountain climbing experience, I wanted to figure out a way to share it with friends, family and fellow survivors back on the East Coast. I wanted others to have that same feeling of community, accomplishment, support and the knowledge that they are doing something towards prevention of cancers and other diseases. After a couple of years of trying to figure out the details of exactly what it was I was going to do, the decision was made deep in the woods while hiking with two of my best friends, Patti and Shirley. I was planning to organize an event on Mt Washington and they committed to being by my side. We agreed that at least there would be three of us climbing that mountain.
To that end, I founded New England Peaks for Prevention (NEPP) in 2013 to benefit the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and the planning began in earnest. After much deliberation it was decided that participants of NEPP would take part in a two day hike through the Presidential Range to the summit of Mount Washington, with two overnights in two of the beautiful Appalachian Mountain club huts. They would return home with knowledge to protect themselves and those they love by taking actions for prevention. New England Peaks for Prevention provides a unique and empowering way for participants and survivors to turn awareness into action just in time for Breast Cancer Prevention Month. The event serves as an opportunity for individuals to honor the strength and courage it takes to face breast cancer as they challenge themselves to climb the highest mountain east of the Mississippi.
The first NEPP event was held on September 5-7, 2014, complete with a memorable mountaintop prayer flag ceremony in honor of survivors or in memory of those who we’ve lost to this disease. That first year Patti, Shirley and I were indeed there, but 52 other folks who joined us as well! I was absolutely thrilled that the inaugural event raised over $100,000! In the past 5 years over 200 unique individuals have participated in NEPP, and each year about half of the participants are back for a repeat experience. These repeat participants would tell you that it’s the people who bring them back year after year and the tremendous feelings of comradery and love. I have been blessed to have one or the other of my daughters climbing alongside of me every year as well as nieces and nephews. I have come to treasure this very special time we have created in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire. My family realizes the benefit of prevention and are all working hard in their own lives to do what they can to thwart the advance of disease through prevention.
To date NEPP events have collectively raised over $410,000 for BCPP. This past September of 2018 we celebrated our 5th year of New England Peaks for Prevention. In a bittersweet gesture, the event was dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Shirley, who lost her life to metastatic breast cancer in March of 2018. While the spring was bringing new light and life once again, one more amazing light was extinguished by breast cancer.
In hindsight, when I was diagnosed in March 2005, it was a new beginning. I am nothing like the person I was prior to my diagnosis. I am stronger, braver and grateful for each and every day I have. I have been lucky, just like the doctors told me. However, many of the wonderful, courageous women I have met along my journey have not been as fortunate. Metastatic breast cancer kills, which is why I will continue to do whatever I can for as long as I can to make a difference in the world of breast cancer.
I am living each day to the fullest. Prevention is the key!
Climb Mt. Washington with New England Peaks for Prevention
Check out the full itinerary and sign up here to hike in support of breast cancer prevention!