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 Flying Sprout: Educational Activities for Kids on the Move

 
Brisbane Flying Sprout Educational activities for kids on the move

mini Majer has always been an advocate for local Brisbane businesses and we were beyond excited to get the chance to catch up with Brisbane-born business, Flying Sprout

Bianca Chopra is a teacher by trade, a busy Brisbane mum of 3-year-old, Jai and the creative mind behind Flying Sprout-- travel-friendly educational kits for kids on the move! 

Flying Sprout was inspired by a Chopra family trip to Europe when Jai was 18 months old. Bianca wanted educational screen-free entertainment for the 20-hour flight. Today, her products have been gaining international exposure with shipments to Singapore, Spain, the US, and Indonesia!

 

What is the day in the life of Bianca like lately? 

It’s always different, but Jai and I always start the day with some exercise. We go for a walk every morning. He’ll play with his lego and we’ll do different activities like music lessons or go to a playgroup to make new friends for the both of us. Everywhere we go together, we both enjoy so that makes the day fun for us. 

If I’m lucky, Jai will nap in the afternoon and I can work on Flying Sprout or tutor.

 

 

What do you find most rewarding in running your own business from home? 

Being a part of Jai’s life and getting in the best quality time. I get to watch him explore and learn something new every day, and of course, the cuddles! 

I’ve always wanted to be a mum and it’s awesome! 

 

 

What are your and Jai’s favourite activities? 

Jungle walks. We started going to the hills and the rain forests around Mount Tamborine. It’s great exercise and Jai will walk 2 and a half km. We love it and it really engages him. 

We’re also so lucky to live right next to the theme parks around Brisbane. We have annual passes and they’re great value and a good reward for Jai.

 

 

Do you have a favourite teaching moment?

I just love seeing the capabilities of children. If you give them the chance and the right support, they can do almost anything. I think we assume that children can’t do something because it might be too difficult so we don’t give them the opportunity to try. 

I used to teach grade 5 and 6 and we do this assignment where the kids would design their own breakfast cereals and do the marketing for it themselves. I did this same activity with primary students and I was so inspired by how well they did with it! It’s moments like those that make me love what I do. 

Brisbane Flying Sprout Kids Activities

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

I’m really lucky because I get to work around my schedule with Jai. I do what I have time for and have learned a lot about running a business. I do everything myself from building and maintaining the website, the social media, and creating new on-the-go activities. I still have lots to learn but it’s very exciting. 

 

 

Do you have a soundtrack to your life at the moment?

I like having music on around the house, and I should really do it more often. It changes the atmosphere of anything you’re doing. Jai and I lately have been listening to the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing and we both have a dance. 

 

 

Where would you like to see Flying Sprout in the next couple years?

I would like to have regular orders and have people love it. I would love to go to a cafe and see someone whip it out of their Flying Sprout kit for their little one. The community around Flying Sprout has been great and very supportive. 

 

 

Do you have any advice for new business owners? 

Don’t expect success overnight, but enjoy the process. 

 

 

What about advice for new mums? 

Trust your gut. If you feel like you should do something your way, do it. Trust what you feel because you know your child the best. 

Be sure to follow Bianca and Flying Sprout on Instagram @flyingsprout

 

Protect You and Your Kids' Skin From The Sun

By: Katrina Lubiano

 

With the approach of the hot and sunny Queensland summer, it is getting to be increasingly important that your children are protected with a good quality sun block to keep their skin safe from the intense Australian sun.

The Dangers of UV light

UV light comes in 2 main forms, UVA, and UVB. Don’t be fooled by recent advertisements suggesting UVA is safer than UVB. They both have the same amount of danger and both will damage the skin. Children are especially affected by exposure to UV, which can increase the chances of getting skin cancer later in life.

 

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for “sun protection factor”. It is a scale designed to measure the ability for a sunblock to protect the skin from UV light radiation. It works by multiplying the SPF by the time it takes your child's skin to redden in the sun.

For example; if it takes 15 minutes for your child's skin to redden without sunscreen, then it would take 15 minutes multiplied by 15 (SPF). With an SPF 15 sunblock, it would now take your child around 225 minutes for their skin to redden.

This of course depends on the amount of sunscreen applied, and whether or not your child has gone into the water or not.

 

How To Protect your Child From Sun Damage

It is important to ensure your child has adequate amounts of sunblock while outside. Wear proper clothing to protect the head, neck and face from the sun's rays, and repeat sunblock applications after swimming or entering the water.

1. Role Modelling

The main goal when it comes to childrens sunscreen application is to develop lifelong patterns. Skin cancer and UV damage don’t happen after a single exposure, but rather, after many repeated exposures. This is why role modelling and regularity can offer so much of a benefit for protecting your children from the damaging effects of UV. Children learn mainly by watching their parents or guardians, so teaching them these skills requires ready

Role modelling has proven so effective, that it has prompted several recent studies on the effects of role modelling on a children's behaviour and their ability or likelihood of developing a variety of healthy habits (like using sunblock). The results have all shown a strong connection between the regular actions and role modelling from a parent or guardian.

Role modelling is one of the most significant actions a parent can take towards instilling healthy behaviours like regular sunscreen use in their children.

 

2. Choose The Right Sunblock

Occlusive (Physical) Sunblocks

Physical or occlusive sunblocks use a physical filter to block the sun's rays. They are also commonly called mineral or inorganic sunscreens. They work by placing a barrier such as mineral particles like zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide to block the sun's rays from reaching the skin. They reflect the sun's rays, and stop them from damaging the skin.

In truth, these sunscreens will not completely block all of the sun's rays, but a good sunblock will manage to keep out the vast majority of the sun’s harmful rays.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both very safe to use, and will not absorb into the skin. They are the best option for children with sensitive skin as they won’t cause irritations. In fact, zinc oxide is actually a common additive in products designed for reducing skin irritations and inflammation!

Chemical sunblocks

Chemical sunscreens use special chemicals to filter the light hitting the skin instead of blocking it like physical sunscreens.

They work by actually absorbing the UV rays, and converting them to heat which is dissipated across the skin.

These sunscreens come with a variety of positive and negatives. Eye irritation, skin inflammations, rashes, and photosensitivity are all negatives of using this type of sunscreen.

The positive is that a good quality chemical sunblock can neutralize nearly all of the UV that reaches the skin including both UVA and UVB. They also tend to be more common in the waterproof sunscreens.

 

3. Clothing

Make sure your children are wearing a hat that covers the entire head, especially the ears and eyes. This is going to offer better protection than any sunscreen. Choose a wide brimmed hat for best results.

It is also important that your child has sunglasses with a UV coating. The eyes are very sensitive to UV and can easily become damaged in the intense Queensland sun. Without protecting the eyes, UV exposure can lead to cataracts or worse which can diminish vision and eye health later in life.
 

Sunscreen and Babies

Babies have notoriously sensitive skin. For this reason, it is important to avoid putting any chemicals on your baby's skin. Try to avoid using sunscreen until about the 6 month mark unless you can find a sunblock with zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. Even with these sunblocks, try to use only on small areas of the body, and rely more on shade, and clothing to protect your baby's skin.

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