Categories Articles & Interviews

Hilary Swank to busy women: Don’t let your health take a backseat

From busy careers to raising children, it’s no secret that women are taking on a lot these days in an increasingly hectic world. Unfortunately, these busy — and stressful — lives can come at a price with one in three women being at risk for cancer in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.

Luckily, something can be done, experts say. By making one’s health a priority through regular doctor’s visits and healthier lifestyle choices, this risk can be reduced.

To help spread this message of the importance of good health, the American Cancer Society announced on Monday the development of “Choose You,” a new documentary film done in collaboration with Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank to inspire women nationwide to make their own health a priority and take everyday steps to help prevent cancer.

Last week, I caught up with Swank, who is serving executive producer of the film, to learn more about the documentary and what advice she has for other busy women on achieving healthier lives.

Kindness: According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one in three women will get cancer in her lifetime. Were you shocked when you heard this statistic?
Hilary Swank: I’ve known about this statistic for a long time, as I’ve done a lot to raise awareness for cancer prevention over the years. This is the first time I’ve done anything with the American Cancer Society, and I’m excited to be a part of this important campaign. Here we are talking, and my assistant is sitting next to me. That’s three women, so it could be any one of us. It’s mind boggling when you think about it.

Kindness: Tell us more about the “Choose You” documentary you’re working on in partnership with ACS.
Swank: The American Cancer Society came to me and asked if I would be interested in participating in this short documentary. I thought it was an incredible, inventive way to reach out and raise awareness on this issue. I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. As women, especially, we often put other people first. It’s part of our nature to let our health take a backseat. But it’s so important to reducing the risk of cancer to remember to put yourself first through nutrition, exercise or finding quiet time. All these things we know help prevent cancer. I’m so grateful to be able to raise awareness through this documentary, using the stories of 3 women — a tie-in to the statistic — to help share this important message in a larger and more relatable way.

Kindness: Have there been times in your life when your own health has taken a backseat?
Swank: It’s a good question. I don’t have children in my life, but I do have a step son with my boyfriend that I’ve been with for over five years. I’ve had to work to find balance in taking care of his son and juggling my own responsibilities.
I found that, for me, the most challenging thing is to give myself some down time with my busy work schedule. Actually, it was about three years ago that I had to make that conscious decision to slow down. I’m very driven and determined, and I love my job, but I was starting to feel really tired and that the stress was slowly taking a toll on my health. Cancer is also prevalent in my family. I had to do something. I’ve always been active and done exercise, and eating well is an important part of my life. It was more about finding a balance between work and play — giving myself a moment of quiet time and rest. It’s a choice I have to face every single day — how I want my day planned out — whether it’s an hour or half an hour of quiet contemplation. It’s important to take that time for yourself. Some may say they can’t find the time, but you can if you make a conscious decision to try.

Kindness: You mentioned that cancer is prevalent in your family. How has it impacted your life?
Swank: When I was very young, my grandfather died of breast cancer and my grandmother, too. Breast cancer doesn’t just happen to women; men die of it as well. I’ve also had aunts that had breast cancer.

Kindness: What advice do you have for other busy women on achieving healther lives?
Swank: It’s about the life choices that you make each daily. As the documentary encourages, choose youreslf, so you can be there for your loved ones. Although we are different there are similarities in how we can take steps for better health, as the three women in the documentary show. Whether that’s finding a support group or a friend or a trainer at the gym, it’s important to take time for yourself, no matter how you choose to do it. I, and my partner Molly Smith, are really honored and excited to be able to use our production company — 2S Films — to help share this message that we feel so strongly and passionate about.

Kindness note: The “Choose You” documentary will be released online for women everywhere on June 23, 2011, at Women can join the movement now and receive an invitation to the online premiere by registering at or by “liking” Choose You on Facebook.