Interview with Jo Menken

Jo Menken - Breast Wishes

Mini Nanny Agency is a proud supporter of Breast Wishes JOurney. Jo Menken is a super-mum who started this support community to inform others of the BRCA (BReast CAncer) susceptibility gene mutation, preventative measures, and procedures to raise funds for cancer research and create a supportive community.

How did your Breast Wishes JOurney begin?

I was diagnosed with the BRCA gene mutation which I inherited from my mum who had breast cancer in 2009. We didn’t find out about it until her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. That’s when doctors became suspicious of the link between the two cancers and the BRCA gene mutation.

After Mum was tested and found to be BRCA2+ this prompted me and a few of my siblings to get tested for the same mutation.

Where does one go to get tested for BRCA? And at what age?

You can get tested with Genetic Health Queensland. I’m not sure at what age other people should get tested at.

I wouldn’t want my daughter to get tested until she’s gone through her teen years. I think the teenage years are already enough to deal with, and it should be her choice when she comes of age.

How did your friends and family react to the news of BRCA positive?

We have a family group chat, so we were already talking about getting tested before I found out. I think they were more worried about it than I was because they know I’m a sensitive person.

I just had a feeling that I had it. I knew that if I did have the BRCA gene, I would get a body cast made before having the mastectomy and put together some kind of fundraising event.

I got tested in 2014 and had the surgery in 2016. It took a long time because I went through the public health system—which I found was quite good. They also want to make sure that you’ll be able to cope with the body changes, so there were psychological tests and counselling involved.

What was it like for you to go through with the mastectomy?

I was consulting with a breast surgeon. They just wanted to get rid of the high risk of developing breast cancer and didn’t care for what I looked like after. They didn’t say that, but that’s how I felt.

Luckily, the public system also offered me to see a plastic surgeon, so I was able to see the two specialists and they worked together. I don’t think too many people know that this is available with our public health system. It does take a lot longer, but it’s there for you.

I was happy to have taken my time with the process. In the back of my mind, I thought I could always pull out of going ahead with the surgery if I wanted to. When it came to being a week out from surgery, I lost it a little bit because the realisation hit me that it was really happening.

Are you familiar with the stages of grieving? After accepting that I was going ahead with the surgery I grieved for the loss of my breasts. I was ready and calm going into the surgery, but I did a lot to prepare myself for that day—meditation, massages, journalling—just to mentally prepare.

After the surgery, I thought “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”—don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as bad as I had made it up to be in my mind. It’s the unknown that’s scary. I was sharing this journey from the start because it was helpful for me in getting support, but more so that others could find information for what to expect and hopefully take away some of that fear for them.

Body Cast - Breast Wishes Journey

Who are some of the organisations and people who helped you start this project?

I googled “body cast Brisbane” and I connected with Paula from Serenity Body Casting who couldn’t do what I had in mind, but she connected me to a man who used to do these body casts, but no longer did them.

I thought it wasn’t going to happen, but Paula contacted me and was able to get him to help, we did the body cast the day before my surgery. Tove Langridge from TW Fine Art put his artwork on the cast and we auctioned it off at the first Breast Wishes Ball for over $1000!

What can people expect at this year’s Breast Wishes Ball on October 6th?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and the Ball is a celebration of life. There will be live entertainment, live and silent auctions and raffles. There are lots of positive vibes and people coming together in support of a great cause. There are no VIP tickets because everyone’s a very important person.

How do you juggle Full-Time work, Breast Wishes Journey, and being a Full-Time mother?

I don’t know. I’m so passionate about what I do, and I do it because I love it. I love the feeling that I get from helping others. I work a lot of hours writing proposals, marketing etc outside of my full-time day job, but it doesn’t feel like extra work.

My daughter, Cam sees that what I’m doing is important to me. Now that she’s a bit older, she helps me with fundraising and it’s amazing to see her empathy towards the cause and towards me.

What do you think parents can do to teach children about breast cancer?

I have a video called “Touch Yourself” that teaches people how to self-check and familiarise with their bodies. Look for any changes like bumps and lumps and get checked out.

I think parents should become familiar with the techniques so they can teach their children to get to know their body when they think appropriate.

What’s your message to other women going through what you’ve gone through?

You are strong enough to do anything. I never thought I’d be strong enough to do any of this, but you somehow find the strength.

I always thought I was a big wuss. I was scared to even go under anaesthetic. But this proved that I’m stronger than I thought and I believe that’s the case for all of us.

Big projects on the go?

Product manufactured at the moment proceeds from sales will go to Brisbane Breast Bank.

I’ve partnered with the Newstead Brewing Co. again. We’re doing a BRCA Brew Pale Ale in the next month or so and we’ll have a launch event for it. The whole idea is to get more men involved as they can get breast cancer too. Newstead Brewing Co. has been so supportive!

Mini Nanny Agency is donating $50 from every permanent nanny placement towards the Breast Wishes JOurney ball which will go towards funding the Brisbane Breast Bank for clinical research.

Jo has also partnered with Nicole from Pro Cosmetic Tattoo who specialises in 3D nipple and areola tattoos. After a mastectomy, people have the option of nipple reconstructive surgery or leaving it bare.

Alternatively, women will opt for areola tattoos. Nicole offering one complementary tattooing session a month (with some minor requirements). If you or you know anyone interested in this generous service, reach out to Jo.

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Catching up with Jeremy and Tim from City-Cave

Tim and Jeremy City Cave Blog

Michelle and I caught up with James Street business locals, Tim and Jeremy, owners of floatation therapy centre City-Cave. If you've already had the experience of visiting City-Cave for float therapy and yoga, you're in for a treat at their newest studio in the works in Rosalie. There will be room for more float rooms, a yoga area, cooking space, an outdoor lounge, and on-site health and wellness experts for your guidance opening later this month!

Tim and Jeremy City Cave

Big and exciting things are happening for City-Cave and Mini Nanny agency is excited to announce new collaborations between our two businesses is in the works. With their bigger studio space in Rosalie, Tim and Jeremy are hoping to get more involved in the community especially with the Rosalie local school just across the street. Introducing kids to holistic approaches to health and wellness is one of many new branches that City-Cave is eager to explore with their new location.


How did you two get into floatation therapy and where was your starting point for City-Cave? 

J- We started out in the business of retail. It was a very stressful, cut-throat industry. You don't make many friends in it. 

T- I could see myself at 50-years-old now being on death's door because of the stress we were dealing with in our lives from our last business. It was highly stressful and we weren't living. We were living to work, so we sold the business. Everything happens for a reason and we came to the decision to sell our company to take some time off, and really decide on what we want to do. 

J- I've dealt with anxiety my whole life and there was no healthy outlet for me leave it behind. We caught wind of float therapy through by brother. We first tried it in the centre of CBD. Everything is a business to us and it all started from there. 

City Cave Mural

What were your initial goals with opening up City-Cave on James Street? 

T- In the early stages, we spent a lot of our resources educating people. Few people have experienced floatation therapy, but almost everybody has heard about, or know of someone who has floated before. Research and development were huge for us. We did a lot of our research in the States. It always takes a bit of time for Australia to catch on to new trends from America, and we want to be right up there as innovators in Australia. 

J- Our initial goals, and even now expanding into Rosalie, has always been building a brand and culture around wellness. Health should be an ongoing practice, not something people only think of when they need to see a doctor. We're certainly not the first people to think like this, but we just want to be one of the first to implement this and create spaces where people want to be comfortable to hang out and feel and excited about their physical and mental well-being. 


What is the most challenging aspect of starting a company?

T- You have to have thick skin and the right mindset.  I rung my mum and told her what I was putting my capital into and she cried because she had no idea what float therapy was because it's so new. But over the last 6 months, I've been getting text messages from her like "ooh, I just saw something on TV. You might be on to something!" I think especially for something new like this, it's just educating people and eventually, it catches wind


What are some of the benefits of floatation therapy? 

T- There are so many. Magnesium intake is a huge benefit. Australia is known to be being really low in magnesium. Floating weekly,  I've found a change in my energy levels, my sleeping was 10x better, and if you're going to the gym a lot, you'll find overall improvement in joint and muscle pain. Magnesium is a natural muscle rexalin found in the Epsom salt. It's antibacterial, and great for your skin. That's all the physical stuff. The mental stuff is also another large element. 


J- It's a forced meditation. Steph Curry uses float therapy for his mental game. It helps you cope with external pressure, visualisation, and finding that flow state. For high-stress jobs, it helps you step away from stress and regathers thoughts, prioritise, stimulate creativity, and become more efficient. 

Float City Cave

T -  Floating makes me mentally bullet-proof. Brings inner peace. We're not hippies, this is just speaking as two regular guys.You have to learn how to do it, but there's no such thing as a bad float and it get's better the more you practice. It's hard because we juggle a lot of different personalities that walk through the door. It takes time, like anything. You need to learn and give it a change. 


Do you recommend kids to try floating and would you recommend it to someone with ADHD?

J- Absolutely. Floating is a great tool for managing your thoughts. I would love to get more kids and especially teens through those doors and open up a world of ways to approach health. It doesn't need to be a sterile doctor's room experience. 

T- Having a psych on board, nutritionists and other experts will really be an added benefit to anyone. Psychs are there help prepare the mind for your float and help you understand your thoughts. I think learning interpersonal skills, switching off, and understanding your thoughts are great tools for anyone especially if you learn them at a younger age. 


Do you have a recommended age for kids to float?

T- It's not so much about age, but more maturity. The teenage years are very important developmentally and something like this can really help them cope with gaining more responsibility and managing their emotions.


You mentioned wanting to get involved in the communities more especially with children's sports and health. What do you think that that looks like for you guys? 

J- There's so much potential to be had with this space (in Rosalie) and the school across the street. We just really want to get involved in the community at no cost to introduce kids to a holistic approach to health. We have a nutritionist who will be doing cooking demonstrations, kids' yoga, and we'd love to help out on their sports days!


What are some personal markers for success in your lives?

City cave yoga

J- A smile. When it comes to success, it's a personal thing--knowing what your success is, know what you want, and achieving it.

T- I don't want to come up to the end of my life and say "cool I have a house a car, and all this money but I spent all my life working in negativity." It's not a nice way to make money. If I can sit back and enjoy the process and enjoy the company of people who have found something valuable in what we do, then I'm happy. 

T - We had a lady come out of a session with tears rolling down her face. She was on chemo for months and was experiencing chronic pain. She was so relieved coming out of her float and thanked us. She said it was the most amazing rest she had experienced in quite some time and she was able to feel relief from her pain. She came back every week. I get fuzzy over it. 


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mini Nanny Agency Meets Ashtanga Yoga Mama, Lexi Crouch!

mini Nanny Agency meets Lexi Crouch

Lexi Crouch is a yoga teacher, studio owner, Eating Disorder and Exercise Addiction therapist, lifestyle blogger, Bachelor of Health Sciences student, and on top of all of that is a supermum!

The mini Nanny Agency team came across the gorgeous Lexi from her Instagram, @lexi.crouch where she posts her yoga journey with her 10-month-old mini, Mabel. We were more than thrilled to finally meet with this busy Brisbane mum who has just opened a yoga studio together with her dedicated yoga instructor husband, Aaron, called Brisbane Ashtanga Yoga right here in mini Nanny Agency’s home neighbourhood on James Street! 

how amazing this this yogi mum!?

How did you get into yoga? 

I was suffering from an eating disorder and exercise addiction and conventional medicine had never worked for me. I first thought that yoga would not be enough of a workout for me to keep fit so I had overlooked it, but I found so much more than an exercise in yoga practice. It allowed me to find a balanced lifestyle and has been a tremendous part of my healing journey.

I had met my husband through yoga and completed my yoga teacher training program in Perth. We would visit Mysore, India every year to refresh our mindset and meet with the creator of Ashtanga Yoga, Sharath Jois. We always look forward to our Mysore trip because we get to meet with different instructors from all over the world and talk about what they’re doing with yoga. 

Lexi Crouch Yoga with bub

We opened up Ashtanga Yoga Brisbane about a month ago and we’ve been really fortunate to have so much support in the community. This is an exciting new chapter in our lives and I love being able to share a practice that has helped me in so many ways.

Owning a studio is my husband, Aaron’s dream come to life. So we’ve been really grateful that we’ve been able to open up Ashtanga Yoga Brisbane in New Farm. The biggest priority for us at the moment is just creating a community at the studio for people to practice yoga without judgment and meet like-minded people. 

Can you tell us a bit about your mum and bubs yoga classes?

Starting next week, I’ll be teaching mum and bubs yoga at the Yoga Everyday studio in Stafford. I think it all ties into the importance of community again because when you become a mum, your whole life begins to revolve around this tiny human’s needs and you can become isolated. Mum and bubs yoga is a great space for new mums to come together to talk about anything really, and know that we’re all in it together. 

Mum and Bub Yoga with Lexi Crouch

I’m hoping to get into teaching more mum and toddler classes soon. To teach little ones and parents to slow down and really listen to their bodies. These classes will help get mums some exercise and to network with other mums. 

What do you find most rewarding about being a mum?

I thought I didn’t want kids at one point in my life, but now I can’t imagine myself without Mabel. Motherhood is everything! I’ve found a lot of growth through motherhood and raising Mabel with Aaron. It’s rewarding growing together and learning how to slow down and appreciate the little things as a family. 

Favourite mum and Mabel activities? 

Mabel is a really active girl. I think she gets that crazy energy from my husband! We’re outdoors a lot so she can burn off that energy. We love going for walks at New Farm park and having picnics. Days at the beach as a family is her favourite too. 

What do you think is essential in maintaining a healthy work-life relationship?

Up until 6 months old, Mabel has been such a calm baby. Now she’s kind of woken up and has such high energy and is a lot more demanding. It can be a strain on my relationship with my husband because at the end of the busy work day, we’ll both be exhausted and our work schedules don't always align. 

Yogi family the Crouchs

I think the key to work-life balance is to make quality time for each other. We enjoy family breakfasts or walks through New Farm park. It's nice to get a babysitter once in awhile and be a couple again! 

And don’t forget to do something that makes you happy for yourself. 

Can you tell me a bit of your nanny story? 

I nannied when I was 18 for a family of an ex-Olympic Australian swimmer for about 3 years. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet coming straight out of high-school, but I knew I didn’t want an office job so I took on nannying. I’ve always liked kids, and I love to keep active, nannying didn't feel like work. 

It’s great building that trust with families and having them welcome you in like a family member. I was never asked to do household chores, but I did anyways to go above and beyond for the family who really treated me as a member too. 

Do you have any advice for new business owners? 

Owning a yoga studio felt like a pipe dream for a long time, but owning your business is achievable. If you spend one day working on one small thing, it will eventually come together for you. 

Brisbane Lexi Crouch

To connect with Lexi and find more information on the many hats she wears, check out her website and follow her inspiring Instagram @lexi.crouch !



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