Can you walk us through the initial inspiration for the Fondle Project and how it came to fruition?
I am a handful of years out from my diagnosis and I knew I wanted to give back and to inspire other women who may just be starting their journey with breast cancer. I had a misdiagnosis before ultimately finding my cancer through vigorous self-advocacy, and I wanted to inspire everyone to trust their intuition when it comes to their own health and seek second opinions. After years of doing regular self exams and normal screenings - fondling my breasts to check for anything abnormal - I knew when something was wrong. I want to encourage women to know their normal and know their bodies. I also wanted to highlight how full and vibrant my life is now, how having cancer does not define us, and that there is so much more to all of our stories. I want to empower survivors and give them hope on this journey.
I am a stylist and part of my healing after reconstruction was getting dressed every day in pieces that made me feel whole and confident. I know that for many women our confidence takes a hit during our treatment, and I wanted to celebrate our bodies and feature the fashion brands that I loved wearing along my journey. The seven female-founded brands involved are all donating proceeds to breast cancer research and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be among such supportive company. Magic happened when I was connected to the incredible photographer Kate Powers to shoot the survivors, illuminating how sexy and gorgeous we are and highlighting our stories.
In your opinion, what are some practical ways that women can cultivate a deeper connection with their bodies and become more attuned to their health?
For people with breasts, it is crucial to perform regular self exams. Set a reminder in your calendar, or sign up for our monthly texts, because self detection early can greatly improve outcomes. My breast cancer was caught very early and if I was not proactive with self-exams, my fate could have been different. Breasts have been hyper sexualized in our society, and sure, they can be for some people, but ultimately they are just like any other body part that needs caring for. Breast health is part of full body health.
Also increasing your overall mindfulness and allowing yourself to slow down and actually listen to your body is so helpful; track your body’s quirks, headaches or any recurring soreness or discomfort. Our bodies often tell us when they need rest or attention, we just have to listen.