Last October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wrote an op-ed piece for The Santa Fe New Mexican advocating breast self-examination for early detection of cancer. In the article, I explained how finding my own cancerous lump likely saved my life.
Soon after writing that piece, I heard from Melissa Kirkpatrick, who started the Circuelle Foundation. A mother of five and successful textile designer, Kirkpatrick had her own cancer scare. It proved to be a false alarm, but led her to realize that she needed to take breast self-examination seriously.
“I thought I should have been doing breast self-exam regularly, and I wanted to work on something that reminds women to check their breasts regularly,” Kirkpatrick said. She started talking to other women, including her female siblings, about whether or not they practiced breast self-examination.
“What I found is that women believe in self-exams and want to be educated about their breast health, but a lot of women don’t like to touch their breasts and don’t want to learn a new habit, and instead have their doctor do it,” she said.
While having your doctor examine your breasts at your annual checkup is important, a lot can happen over the course of a year. And the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances are for successful treatment (read: staying alive).
Kirkpatrick felt that making breast self-exam a pleasant self-care ritual could help persuade more women to check their own breasts on a regular basis. With the help of a chemist, she developed Circuelle Breast Ritual Crème™, a product that she believes makes it easier and more pleasant to do self-exams. Profits from sales of the product go to the foundation’s breast health education programs.
The foundation sent me a sample to try. I was skeptical at first; why not just use soap and water, or ordinary body lotion? But, well—I hadn’t, had I? I’d never done regular self-exams, with soap and water or anything else, for that matter.
So I tried the product. It’s a very lightweight liquid similar to facial serums that glides onto the skin and makes it easier to move your hand around your breast. Simply put, it helps you discern what’s underneath the skin easier than just soap and water or ordinary lotion. It’s not at all oily, and washes off easily. It takes very little of the product to be effective. I used it in the shower, but it could as easily be used in the bath (or during any naked moment, for that matter).
What most impressed me was the fact that I have continued to use the product to examine my breasts on a regular basis. Granted, since I’ve already had breast cancer I’m a little more attentive to self-exam than many women. But I have to say, the idea of having a special product just for this purpose—and seeing that pretty little pink can sitting in the corner in my bathtub—has in fact created the sense of a ritual, exactly what Kirkpatrick has in mind. In fact, the Twitter tags for Circuelle are #healthyrituals and #knowyourbreasts.
Each time we examine our own breasts, we are in effect saying, “I love myself. I love my body. I am worth taking care of. I can handle any truths that result.” I’m dangerously close to aping Helen Reddy’s “I am woman, hear me roar,” but heck—I want to stick around on Earth a while longer, and I’ll do anything reasonable to make sure I have a normal lifespan. Won’t you?
Kirkpatrick’s Circuelle Foundation is doing important work, especially in creating breast health educational programs for high school girls and college women (called “Beautiful Awareness”) that will serve them throughout their lifetimes. So you can feel good about purchasing the product.
Check out the website: circuellefoundation.org, and see what you think.