October is a poignant month for me. You see, my mom passed away on October 15, 1995 from complications from metastatic breast cancer. I was 21 years old. She was only 48.

Way too young. Both of us. Me, too young to lose my mother. My mother, way too young to die.

And ironically October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, I like to call it BREAST HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH instead.

This is more than an abstract pink-ribbon month for me. It’s personal. For me, I’d rather focus on having a healthy and balanced body.

At the age of 21 I made a choice. I was not going to go down the road of my mother’s body. I was going to do what I could, on a daily basis, to take good care of myself. I realized I had two choices: I could choose FEAR or I could choose LOVE. I chose LOVE. Love for myself, my body, my breasts, my health, my future.

And so, decades before I would eventually become a holistic health coach and nutrition consultant, I started to pay attention to my health in a way most 21-year-olds don’t. For years I’ve been clearing out potential carcinogens like harmful beauty products and cleaning supplies, unnecessary plastics, toxic food, and even harmful stress and mindsets (and people). I wasn’t anywhere near perfect (and I’m still not) but I have been making a conscious effort to be mindful of what goes on my body, in body, near my body.

Let me take a moment to tell you a little about my mom because I don’t want her to be defined by how she died. My mom was a strong woman and taught my sister and me to be strong women, too. She put herself through college at UC Santa Barbara and taught high school her entire adult life (first home economics and then history when they began to phase out home ec classes). She loved to shop and had a great eye for color. She was a fantastic gift giver and would shower us with presents at Christmas, often with gifts she had been collecting for us all year. She was actually very “crafty” and made all sorts of decorations (many of which we still have). She loved going to Hawaii, visiting historical sites, and planning amazing trips for our family. She could be incredibly “thrifty” but also was incredibly generous. We didn’t always agree (what mother and daughter do?) but I never doubted that she loved us deeply. Or that she continues to watch over us.

This is a picture of my family at my sister’s graduation from high school, just four months before we’d lose our mother. (My sister asked me to crop it! LOL!)

FIVE steps you can take TODAY to support HEALTHY HAPPY BREASTS:

1. Eat a healthy diet: Did you know that increasing your fiber intake can help lower excess estrogen levels and decrease your risk of breast cancer?  Best way to get that fiber is to eat at least 3-8 cups of organic, seasonal vegetables every day (along with 1-3 servings of fruit)! Think dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, bok choy and other colorful foods. And if you’re eating all those veggies, you probably will have less sugar cravings too because your blood sugar will be more stable. Avoiding processed sugar and other foods that spike your insulin levels is another helpful thing we can do for our breast health every day.

2. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has numerous benefits: we feel good, it helps us manage our stress levels, we often do it with others so we get to connect, it can help decrease excess estrogen levels, and it lowers the risk of breast cancer. Find something fun to do! And do it often.

3. Be social: As humans, we need connection to our “tribe.” We are social creatures and it’s important to cultivate meaningful relationships with others as part of our health and wellness plan. Women especially need to connect with other women often.

4. Be mindful of the chemicals you bring into your home: How toxic are your cleaning supplies? How about the beauty products you put on your skin every day? What’s in that lotion? Or your shampoo? Check out the EWG’s Skin Deep Database to find out more.

5. Practice Self-Care and Self-Love Every Day: As Dr. Christiane Northrup, women’s health expert and OB/GYN, so beautifully states: “This is the most important factor in creating health because carving out time to care for and love yourself unconditionally feeds your cells the positive thoughts and emotions they need to reproduce in a healthy way.” I love this and in fact this exactly what I guide people through in the Whole Life Nourishment for Changemakers group program!

Each year I choose a different way to honor and celebrate my mother.

This year please consider making a donation to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP).

BCPP works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. They are a founding member and national coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition working to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

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