Real Talk with Jennifer Van Dusen

Jennifer Van Dusen is an advocate for self-care and inspiring all those around her to be their best, healthiest selves! She told us about her fight with breast cancer and how she hopes to raise awareness for the disease. Read on to see what #AerieREAL and #GirlPower mean to her!

Real Talk with Jennifer Van Dusen

Why is it important for girls and women to become educated on their breast and ovarian health?

You are your best health advocate.  No one knows your body better than you do.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to what it tell you.  Your breast can feel different throughout the month due to hormonal changes so the best thing to do is pick a day each month to examine yourself.  A catch phrase in the community is “Feels on the 1st” which means on the 1st day of a new month is a good time to compare your breasts to how they felt on the 1st of the month before.  Do they hurt, is there discharge, do you feel a lump that wasn’t there a month ago?  And get a Pap done at least every year.  There is hardly anyway to tell if you are having problems with an ovary until it’s too late.  Seeing your doctor for an annual checkup can save your life so don’t put it off because it’s awkward or uncomfortable.  What I would always do is book a girls lunch or get a treat for myself on the way home after my annual exam.

Understanding your personal risk including hereditary factors is another huge part of your physical health as a women.  I’m lucky in that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years before I was.  I learned a lot about the disease but my eyes were opened even more once I was diagnosed.  And after I was I learned it goes much further than possibly your genes.  In my case, my cancer was very receptive to estrogen, so limiting or not drinking alcohol helps as it converts to estrogen when consumed.  I also had my 1st period when I was very young, another risk factor.  I”m not saying make yourself crazy, but ask about your maternal family history and let your doctor know what it is.

Most importantly women need to become educated on their health because it give us power.  So much of life is influenced by outside forces and anytime in which we can take control and help others like us we should.  To me this is the very definition of #GirlPower.

What advice do you have for girls and women who want to lead healthy lifestyles?

The best advice I can give anyone on how to live a healthy lifestyle is start with self-care.  This sounds so simple, but it takes work.  When I first heard about it, at the start of my cancer treatment I thought why do I need to care for me, I have my husband taking care of me, a team of doctors and supportive friends.  But when I learned what it meant and embraced it as part of my treatment I can’t say what a help it was.  Before, I thought it meant; I’m tired from treatment so I’ll take a nap.  But what it really needs to be is a conscious decision to put yourself above all else for little bit every day.  While I was in daily cancer treatment this became a lifesaver, some day it was as simple as putting on a song that lifted my spirits, sitting by the window and enjoying a cup of tea, taking 30 minutes to meditate, getting an ice-cream cone on the way home from the hospital or buying myself a new pair of legging from my favorite store – AERIE.  Self care for me now that my energy is improving is walking my dogs, working up a sweat at the gym, trying out a new recipe for dinner.

Whatever your self-care (or treat as I prefer to call it) is, the most important thing is to do it mindfully; meaning you are doing it for you, you don’t have to justify it you just have to be 100% present in that moment.

Once you are strong enough to care for yourself what you can give back to others is only multiplied.  This is the airplane mask rule, put your mask on 1st and then help the person next to you.

Real Talk with Jennifer Van DusenWho inspires you to be your best self? 

This is a big question.  I could probably write a book on this answer alone!  I am also going to point out that my eyes are very wet while writing this, because my feelings for these people are so deep.

I have to say 1st off my husband, Jamie Van Dusen.  He truly is love, because love is a verb and not a noun.  His strength and unwavering commitment to me got me through the worst, the loss of my mother to breast cancer, my diagnosis, my double mastectomy and so much more.  He was my strength when I didn’t have any therefore he deserves the best from me in return.

The next person is a beautiful angel, Jasmin Fiore.  I didn’t have the pleasure of spending lots of time with her but she is an inspiration to me and many women in my cancer community.  She was so young when diagnosed with MBC (metastatic breast cancer aka Stage4) and had 2 little girls, but she went on to start an amazing retreat for other young women diagnosed with breast cancer.  Only about 3% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 40.  Without the retreat she started, Stretch Heal Grow, I never would have met other women like me.  I felt so alone and Jasmin created a community, friendships and a space of healing for us.  While she had a horrible battle of her own she gave back in the most beautiful way possible.  I am forever in her debt and aspire to give back as much as I can because of her (learn more here: https://stretchhealgrow.org/about/)

And I guess at the end of the day I also have to say I inspire me, because when it comes right down to it my thoughts are last thing I hear at night and first thing I hear in the morning.  I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and say I am living my best life or trying my hardest to be a good person.  Every day I am alive is a blessing and it’s not something that is guaranteed so God willing I will make the most of it.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I hope that every women out there has a little #AerieREAL in them!  To me it means I am strong but also insecure, that I am perfect and also flawed.  Most importantly it means that I own who I am and I am grateful.

Want to see how Aerie supports breast cancer awareness? Read more here!

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Bracelet DIY in stores

Share the love this October. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, show someone undergoing treatment that you’re thinking of them. Make an empowering bracelet in select Aerie stores & we’ll send it along! See if your store is on the list below.

Bracelet DIY in stores

Create your own words of encouragement or get inspired by some of our faves.

  • Strong
  • Warrior
  • Fearless
  • Brave
  • U got this
  • GRL PWR
  • Courage
  • Fighter
  • Real love
  • Hope
  • Hi beautiful
  • Fierce

Bracelet DIY in stores

Create a bracelet in a store near you:

Stores

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Take care of your girls!

We’re so proud to celebrate our 9th year partnering with Bright Pink®, a non-profit dedicated to prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women. We’ll be honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month all October. Read on and find out how YOU can take care of your girls!

Take care of your girls!

To kick off the month, Bright Pink CEO, Katie Thiede, shared the love about our partnership: “We’re thrilled to partner with Aerie for the 9th consecutive year together! Our partnership aims to spark important conversations among young women and inspire them to be proactive with their health, while raising critical funds to fuel Bright Pink’s life-saving mission. Since 2010, together we have raised more than $1 million to empower women to know their risk for breast & ovarian cancer and take action. Bright Pink’s flagship program, Assess Your Risk, has helped more than one million women learn their risk and take steps to manage it. We’re excited to share this quiz with Aerie girls through our partnership this fall because the more you know, the better prepared you are to take control of your health and your future!”

Bright Pink’s website offers an array of life-saving resources, from the Assess Your Risk™ quiz Katie mentioned to monthly Breast Health Reminders™, where you can get alerts right on your phone to remind you to check your girls.

Take care of your girls!

Wear your support proudly with our limited-edition sports bra and legging! 100% of US sales in stores and at Aerie.com benefit the non-profit.

Take care of your girls!

We can all use a little more inspiration! This October, you can get a free pouch and mirror decals with your $5+ donation to Bright Pink in US stores and Rethink Breast Cancer in Canada. These mirror decals act as a daily reminder to take care of your girls!

Want to learn more about our partnership with Bright Pink? Read about it here!

 

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Real Talk with Sadie Strong 

She’s a veteran, she’s a mom, and she’s #AerieREAL! Sadie Strong has learned to embrace her body through all of its stages. Read on below to see how Sadie tries to pay it forward while keeping it #AerieREAL in her everyday life.

Real Talk with Sadie Strong Has being a mom affected how you feel about your body?

When I was pregnant I embraced my baby bump. I wore a bikini, showed it off with crop tops and everything. I thought it was the best body I had ever had. Honestly, in the back of my mind I was worried about what others were going to think of me and my post pregnancy body. “Was I going to bounce back?” “ What if I didn’t?” Now, being almost a year post birth I put all of those questions to bed. The body I have, my son loves to cuddle with and take naps on. If anything, being a mom has made me more comfortable with the appearance of my body because I know the amazing things it’s capable of doing.

What’s your advice for someone who seeks balance in their life?

I believe balance is like an internal scale, weighing the options on how you live your life.

When you put outside world opinions on one side of the scale instead of your own thoughts, opinions and needs, you have to try a lot harder to balance your scale. I believe you need to truly put your own happiness first to have balance in your life. It’s a lot easier to balance yourself and be happy when you are not trying to please strangers as well. Real Talk with Sadie Strong 

Big or small, how do you pay it forward?

I truly try and pay it forward as often as I can. Usually in small cute ways whether it’s for my loved ones or strangers. This is silly but often when I get coffee in a drive through I pay the persons behind me also just because I know it will make them smile. For my kids I like to leave surprise notes around their rooms, or in their backpacks at school to remind them how smart and amazing they are or send them little jokes. I love to give people a small moment of happiness because life isn’t always easy, but I believe a smile goes a long way and can get you through a day.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I’m #AerieREAL because I  am my TRUE self and I choose to be me. Every curve, scar, smile, and feeling! I am enough just the way I am. I am a mom and disabled veteran, and being able to accept my body and myself  for who I am, allows me to live my best life and be Role Model for positivity and self love.

Want to learn more about our latest #AerieREAL photo shoot? Read about it here!

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Real Talk with Cassie Wegeng

Cassie is an animal trainer and caretaker turned non-profit world saver focused on leading a healthy lifestyle (and eating all the donuts along the way). She’s also one of our newest #AerieREAL faces! Read on to see what makes her #AerieREAL and how her time at the Aerie bra photoshoot encouraged her to be her best self.

CassieWegangWhat workout makes you feel REAL good?

I have been following the “Tone It Up” program for several years now, and I LOVE it!! Tone It Up is a combination of nutrition education and recipes, workouts and community. I’ve met some incredible, supportive women through the Tone It Up community who are like minded and keep me accountable! The workouts are a planned for you, can be done anywhere, and they’re a mix of anything and everything – HIIT, kickboxing, dance cardio, weights, yoga, even meditation. I cannot recommend it enough, as it literally changed my perspective on health and has been a major part of my life. I’m also a sucker for a good beach run.

Do you have any tips for staying motivated?

GREAT question – as this is different for everyone! Motivation will ebb and flow, and that’s ok! Fitness and nutrition is a life long journey, not a shortcut to quick results. Find something that works for YOU and makes you happy. What helps me stay motivated is the feeling I get after I workout. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and eventually it becomes FUN and your body will crave it. You will never, ever regret working out (even if it’s terribly difficult throughout!), and you’ll feel accomplished no matter what.

How has your active lifestyle impacted how you feel about your body?

Leading a healthy lifestyle has proven to me that my body is capable of so much, mentally and physically! A huge part of an active lifestyle to me is the mental component – finding the strength to push through challenges. Our bodies are so much stronger than our brain sometimes. Turning negative self talk around during a workout is a tool I’ve learned to utilize more in my daily life as well! When we treat ourselves and talk to ourselves with love, our bodies love us back and carry us through life’s ups and downs with strength and confidence.IMG_5675_f_1

Tell us your experience on the shoot!

Photoshoot day was quite literally the BEST day ever (ok, wedding steals first place, but you know what I mean). I never wanted it to end! There was so much love, laughter, music, dancing, amazing clothing, inspiring stories and conversation, and friendships made that will last a lifetime. I am so grateful to Aerie for the opportunity to share our stories, and I will forever cherish the memories made throughout this journey.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I think being #AerieREAL means just being REAL! Social media these days makes it so easy to get wrapped up in trying to be “perfect”. I am so over society’s definition of perfection. I’m 100% trying to prove that perfection is being you through and through, because no one else on the planet can do that. I’m also a big proponent of living a healthy lifestyle and working hard to reach your goals. That’s when I feel my best, which allows me to be the best for those I love!

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Real Talk with Lilly Cepull

This #AerieREAL artist is all sunshine! Lilly Cepull gave us the scoop about her work and what being #AerieREAL means to her. Read on to see why Lilly was inspired to join our latest #AerieREAL bra photoshoot!

 

We love your designs! What inspires your creativity?

Ah, thank you so much!! I feel as if most of my creativity stems from everyday life around me. I get inspired anywhere, and I mean anywhere! I will be out to eat at a restaurant and love the font of the menus, take a pic, and try and draw the font by hand later (I am a complete lettering nerd, I know!!) Or love the way certain colors on buildings go together. I always try to view the world around me with a creative eye and it makes life even more magical. There really is so much beauty everywhere! That being said, I make sure to have my iPad pro with me at all times so that I can sketch an idea out or create a new color palette on the go.

Real Talk with Lilly Cepull

What’s your favorite media to create with? Why?

So my old self would respond with just the good ole pen and paper combo. But my new high tech self would have to say any digital media. I got my iPad pro this past March and it quickly changed the game for me. Although I still recommend to all letterers, and artists in general, that paper and pen (most people would say pencil but I really have the “just go for it” mentality,) is the best way to start. But eventually lugging around pens, sketchbooks, paints, and all the things to every local coffee shop got old. My iPad really allows me to not strain my arm muscles carrying so many supplies and makes creating digital artwork for clients one thousand times easier. Don’t get me wrong, I still do plenty of work on paper, chalkboards, canvases, jackets, etc. but digital work is my jam at the moment!

What made you want to join this #AerieREAL bra photoshoot?

OMG a million things! I have adored Aerie for as long as I can remember. But the main reason why is because growing up I never really saw petite gals modeling. Or REAL gals for that matter. Pictures were always retouched and made picture perfect. I would look at them and be so upset that I was short or that my skin broke out on the daily. I often felt that I was alone and that no other girls struggled with the problems I did. Well, news flash- we are all in this together!! So being a part of this campaign meant the absolute world to me. I want all girls to realize that you are an absolute babe just the way you are! No retouching necessary.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I am #AerieREAL because I am not afraid to accept myself exactly the way I am. I realize it is so challenging to be a girl nowadays. Everywhere we look we see retouched photos of societies example of the “perfect woman” and we instantly compare ourselves. The never ending cycle of comparing your body or life to models on billboards, girls on Instagram, or the random gals at the grocery store is exhausting. I have been there and done that. But you have to realize that your “flaws” make you, YOU! They tell your story and represent all you’ve been through and await all that is left to come. All of this being said, it is so important to be yourself and never dare apologize for it. Wear no makeup for the Instagram picture- you’re so dang beautiful without it. Sing and dance as much as you want- life is more fun that way. Wear your sweatpants out to go get tacos- because guess what? Ya look GOOD! So I am #AerieREAL because I am unapologetically myself no matter the time or place. There is only one me and there is only one you. So let’s show the world who we REALLY are by keeping it real.

Want to learn more about our newest #AerieREAL photo shoot? Read about it here!

 

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