According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
San Diego native Shaney Jo Darden, founder of the California nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation, has spent the past two decades raising awareness of breast cancer in younger women, and the importance of early detection. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 12,000 women age 40 or younger are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
The organization has now brought its KAB breast cast exhibition to Nashville. A gallery featuring casts of more than 80 notable Nashville women is on display in East Nashville, and will run through the end of this week at 1600 Riverside Drive, with free admission each day from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Several Nashville artists, songwriters, athletes, politicians, executives and more took part in the Nashville KAB Collection, including Cam, Mickey Guyton, The War & Treaty’s Tanya Trotter, Fiona Whelan Prine, Kelleigh Bannen, Kalie Shorr, Allison Moorer, Caitlyn Smith, Emily West, Lucie Silvas, Gena Johnson, Heather Morgan, Faren Rachels, and former Nashville mayor Megan Barry.
“There is incredible symbolic nature to it,” said singer-songwriter Cam, who was 35 weeks pregnant with her daughter Lucy at the time she took part in the casting.
“It makes you so appreciative of your body. You are living in this body, let’s take care of it. How simple it sounds to just remember to check yourself, but we don’t do it. Keep A Breast has an app that does reminders for you. I’ve had family members who have had breast cancer so let’s help prevent it from happening by doing self checks.”
After each woman’s session, she selects an artist to paint and decorate the cast.
Cam’s cast, painted by artist Steffi Sutton, includes a star/compass symbolizing her daughter, jukeboxes symbolizing her path in country music, flowers representing both her California roots and her current Nashville home, and female samurai warriors, representing her fighting spirit, and a rainbow to symbolize Cam’s support for the LGBTQIA community.
“It was extra meaningful because I was pregnant with Lucy, but also just being around women in that space,” Cam said. “They also made sure it was a diverse group of women, both on the artist and the castee side. It is a really beautiful effort they are doing.”
BMI’s Senior Director of Media Relations Lauren Branson calls her experience “one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in my lifetime.” Branson, 38, has faced her own battle with breast cancer over the past year, including 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.
In late February, Branson took part in a casting at the invitation of her friends Gena Johnson and Fiona Whelan Prine, and she says the casting gave her the courage to go public with her fight against breast cancer.
“This was literally the last thing I did before the world shut down because of COVID,” she recalls. “That day we were in the room, I’m standing there and Fiona and Shaney were asking these wonderful, deep questions. Fiona said, ‘Why wouldn’t you tell people that you are doing this? You are so young and this is really a hard thing and other young women can benefit from this knowledge. You are young, vibrant, you are still living your life and you are winning this battle. This could help even one person avoid what you’ve gone through.’
“I really took that to heart and being in that room, it was just special. I left there and immediately wrote a social media post and posted a photo of me being cast. That day changed my life for the better and it changed the way I approach my story in a public way, and I am so grateful for having had the experience. The gallery is a testament to how strong and supportive Nashville’s community is,” Branson said.
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, there will be an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2020. Approximately 4% of breast cancers occur in women younger than age 40, though if detected early in the localized stage, the five-year survival rate is 98%.
“I would love for women to know you can download the Keep A Breast app and set a monthly reminder for a self-exam. If we hadn’t caught my cancer when we did, we would have had a very different outcome. Early detection is so important,” Branson said.
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