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Dana Friedman breast cancer survivor and advocate with women in her family

Faces of Prevention

Interview with Dana Friedman: wife, sister, mom, advocate, runner, breast cancer survivor


BCPP: Dana, let’s begin with your journey discovering toxics in our everyday lives and products. What was your aha moment? When did you first become aware of the link between chemicals in our environment and increased breast cancer rates? 

Dana: I became aware back in 2013 when I was first introduced to a clean beauty company called Beautycounter by a friend of mine. I started diving into what they were all about and what they were doing to try to change the face of the beauty industry. I learned about getting safer products into people’s hands and teaching them about the tie between toxics in our everyday products, exposures in our environment, and the connection to cancer. I felt very compelled to do something. That’s really what drew me in because I love the idea of actively educating others about changing their lifestyle so that they can avoid as many toxics as possible.

Dr Jasmine McDonald BCPP Face of Prevention 2021

BCPP: Beautycounter has been such a leader in the beauty movement and a key player in Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Together, we’ve passed meaningful legislation. Have you met with your legislators to advocate for safer beauty or contacted other moms like you to speak up for change? 

Dr Jasmine McDonald_BCPP Face of Prevention 2021

Dana: Yes! A few years ago, I was lucky to win a spot as one of the top consultants in New Jersey and went with Beautycounter to D.C. as a voice for change representing my state. It was a very cool experience because we were on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers and speaking up about clean beauty, the lack of regulation, and the market. Interestingly, many of the staffers we met with had no idea about the problem.

Going back to our aha moments, it’s eye-opening when you have that platform, and you speak to people who govern our laws. Yet, they don’t even realize that the products on the shelves could have potentially harmful chemicals in them. Still, the people we met with were very receptive to what we were saying and the change we were trying to make.

In addition to DC, I was also able to schedule local meetings with different Congresspeople. We went to Cory Booker’s office, one of our New Jersey senators, with some other local Beautycounter consultants. It was an exciting time to speak up.

Breast cancer survivor Dana Friedman visits U.S. House of Representatives in D.C.

What I took away is that it’s important to use your voice because it takes years to make meaningful changes. If you think about, let’s say, seatbelt laws, smoking on airplanes, or things that are so normal in our society, it took a very long time to implement these meaningful changes.

When I look back, I’ve been an advocate for ten years, and yes, there is no overall sweeping change. But there have been wins along the way. And I feel proud that we can at least make a dent in the industry because we have a long way to go.

Mother's Day 2x Donation Match by Beautycounter

Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $10,000, so there has never been a better time to give in honor of those you love.

BCPP: As you know, BCPP is a science-based advocacy organization. Our theory of change involves making the laws that protect us stronger while working with companies and consumers to press the market toward safer products. In many cases, the market is a faster driver of change; legislation can take longer. Once the market starts to shift, it encourages legislators to start paying attention and move to enact laws that protect us. As an advocate and someone well versed in toxic chemicals leading to disease, including breast cancer, how have you invited this lifestyle into your home?

Dr Jasmine McDonald_BCPP Face of Prevention 2021

Dana: The first thing I overhauled was my personal care products. But then I took steps to make more changes in my home. The next category I really dove into was the cleaning products in my house, and I got rid of anything with dangerous toxic chemicals in it. But even further, I was looking at anything with the word fragrance on the bottle. To this day, I still won’t purchase undisclosed fragrance, knowing that it can be a hidden word for many harmful ingredients.

So, personal care, and then the cleaning products. I had already been buying organic foods for my house, but I started doing it even more. Then it was getting rid of all the plastic storage containers and replacing those with glass. Those were the things I did in my home ten years ago and still abide by.

Breast cancer survivor Dana Friedmans kids family

BCPP: That’s wonderful. And you have three kids. You mentioned you have one in high school, another in college, and another child outside working in the workforce now. Do you feel that your safer choices have impressed upon them? 

Dana: I think my kids got a front-row seat to see what I was passionate about because my oldest is almost 24 now, and at the time, she was 14; luckily still very impressionable. And my kids always mirrored my lifestyle in their own ways. They knew what I was doing was meaningful. For instance, my two boys would talk about Beautycounter to their teachers. Over the years, they actually brought consultants onto my team, as well as customers, because they would say to their teachers, “Oh, do you know what you’re using could be dangerous?” They took to it and saw that this was an important thing their mom was doing. And I was always really proud that they looked up to it and looked up to me.

I want to mirror that. Even when my daughter was in college, she took some sustainability courses, and I loved that. She recently asked me why I don’t compost in my house. She’s taking it to an even greater level. She’s on that. So, we’re looking into it.

BCPP: Love that! These are the next generation of consumers with voices that matter. Dana, why is prevention important to you?

Dana: I’m grateful for all the non-profits that focus on the cure and treatment because that’s what ultimately saved my life. However, I would rather back it up and have more organizations focus on prevention so that nobody has to go through what I had to endure in the first place. That’s why to me, it’s very personal. And I would rather see the prevention and protection end of it be more visible.

BCPP: Do you have a favorite Breast Cancer Prevention Partners prevention tip?

Dana: Take it in pieces. That would be my best tip because if you look at the landscape of where you could potentially be exposed to toxics, it’s very overwhelming. And if you look at it and say, oh, my gosh, I have to make all these changes, you’re just going to be paralyzed, and you probably will end up doing nothing.

It’s important to look back at how I approached it, which was taking one category at a time and one day at a time because you can’t strive for perfection. You just try to do the best you can.

Take whichever category you think is most prevalent in your house. Cleaning products are a big category to make that change. Food is another one that we are exposed to every day. Everyone must eat. My best tip is to chip away at it and not get overwhelmed by the information because it can be overwhelming. Just take it one piece at a time.

If you’re making the changes, it’s essential to start paying attention to the research and not tuning it out. People feel better that they’re not just dumping a product in the landfill if they’re going to use it and then move on to something safer. That’s the way to go.

BCPP: Dana, switching gears to something more personal. Last year, you were diagnosed with breast cancer. What is your breast cancer story? Is there a family history of the disease?

Dana: My story is not a great one. I originally found a lump a year before I was diagnosed, and I had mentioned it to my OBGYN at my annual checkup. That was within that same month that I felt it, and I showed him, and he felt it, and he said not to worry. I have dense breasts, I am prone to cysts, and it didn’t seem like anything troublesome. And the next month, for my annual mammogram, they would recheck it. This was in June 2021. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound. The radiologist, who now double-checked all the imaging and said everything looked benign in appearance, said to come back in a year, and they sent me on my way.

That fall, I mentioned to my internist that I had this lump, and it was not going away. And what do you think? They cleared me. She said the same thing my OB said, which was not to worry. It doesn’t feel like anything and see what they say at your next mammogram. 

Dr Jasmine McDonald_BCPP Face of Prevention 2021

That brought me to June 2022. I had my mammogram; I was very diligent. Since I turned 40 (I’m now 53), I always went yearly. I never missed a year. I went as I was told, being a rule follower.

A year later, on June 22, after they mentioned the lump and they did the imaging, it was vastly different. They needed to biopsy it right away. They wanted to biopsy under my arm because the lymph nodes looked swollen, and that was on a Friday. I found out on Monday that it was cancer.

Initially, of course, I was terribly upset, and I called my husband at work, crying. I couldn’t believe it, even though I could believe it because I felt like my gut knew the whole time. And then my sadness turned to anger; I was so mad that I had been dismissed over the past year. So that’s my story of when it was detected. And it was not fun.

My mom had breast cancer ten years ago. She is not a carrier of the BRCA gene. I was told that I didn’t need to be tested because my mother wasn’t a carrier. But I have since learned that’s not true: you can also be a carrier through your father.

In my case, it wouldn’t have made a difference because, fast forward, I was tested for the gene when I was diagnosed, and I am not a carrier. There was nothing else in my genetic testing that showed any indication that I was prone to breast cancer. As you know all too well, 90% of cancers are environmental. I believe mine and my mothers were both environmental, even though we’ve all had it. 

BCPP: Thank you for sharing your story with us today. Breast cancer undoubtedly affects you. It affects your family. It affects all around you. What’s changed since your diagnosis, and what’s stayed the same?

Dr Jasmine McDonald_BCPP Face of Prevention 2021

Dana: That’s a tough question. But I would say in terms of change, anyone who’s been through cancer would agree that you’re not the same person as before and have a reset in your life. Even though I’m still Dana, I’ve been through something traumatic and life-changing, but in a good way, it has shown me how strong I can be. And how lucky I was, even though they didn’t catch it in 2021, to have the non-metastatic diagnosis. I felt very lucky that it hadn’t spread past stage two.

On top of that, I feel so lucky for the community I was surrounded by. The support of my friends and family made me so much more grateful to have the people in my life around me every day, loving me. It’s very hard to get through something like this without that tremendous support. That was eye-opening to me. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I was grateful I always had these big virtual arms around me.

BCPP: And you have a family! You have three kids and a husband. Have you felt a deeper sense of urgency to be together?

Dana: We’re lucky because we were already a very close family unit. My kids are all close with each other. They are all friends, which makes me so happy as a mom.

breast cancer survivor advocate Dana Friedman and her family

And I’m lucky because I have the best husband in the world. He’s the biggest cheerleader in my lifetime. But of course, even more meaningful going through this, Doug was by my side every step of the way. I’m just so appreciative that I have that.

But in terms of being together, all I crave is to be surrounded by my family because I feel so lucky and grateful that I was able to beat cancer. And I am still here to be Doug’s wife and their mom. And hopefully, we’ll have that for many years to come.

breast cancer survivor advocate Dana Friedman and her family

BCPP: Absolutely. Your story is one of our favorites. You contacted us over the summer because your husband made a personal commitment in your honor. He had already signed up to do the New York City Marathon and was fundraising for another charity. But after your diagnosis, he decided to double up. He took the generous funds raised, matched those, and made a generous, meaningful gift to BCPP. Your friends also donated in support. It’s a testament to how beautiful you are, how beautiful you are as a couple, and how your family supports you.

Dana: I’m so proud of him. That was in the middle of my chemo. The New York City Marathon is the first weekend in November, and I was in chemotherapy from September through December. It meant a lot to me that Doug was able to train and run the marathon so that he could have that escape outside of cancer. To be able to run, which is something he has a strong passion for. He could dive into his training and have a purpose outside of being the caregiver. It was wonderful that he could raise that money for such a meaningful charity. We were so happy to have it go to BCPP.

BCPP: We can’t thank you enough. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you. And now Doug, too. We look forward to staying in touch and continuing to amplify your voice for this cause. You are a champion! You are such an incredible advocate and have been for so long. What wrap-up message would you like to share with our community? 

Dana: Based on my experience, it’s important to be your own advocate. And if you think something is wrong, keep pushing and ensure you get the answers you’re looking for. That’s my number one message.

Number two, make the small changes you can to lead a more toxic-free life. We need to do what we can to help prevent breast cancer or any cancer in the first place. Just taking those little steps we discussed earlier is super important. I hope the community embraces that! 

Mother's Day 2x Donation Match by Beautycounter

Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $10,000, so there has never been a better time to give in honor of those you love. 

I’m a BCPP Face of Prevention. Will you be one too? 

breast cancer survivor advocate Dana Friedman and her family

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