(WVEC) -- According to the American Cancer Society, the median age in the United States for women at the time of breast cancer diagnosis is 62, but there are many women who are much younger than that when diagnosed.
So, a local organization, called Here for the Girls, Inc., is designed to meet the unique needs of young women affected by breast cancer.
Miki Fett is a 1-year survivor and member of the organization. She recalls the first thought that came to her mind when she was diagnosed.
“What's the plan? What do we do? How do I beat this?” she said.
3-year survivor Katrina Keel-Saunders also recalls her first thought.
“The only thing that was really going through my mind is what was going to happen with my husband and my kids,” Keel-Saunders said.
Denise Brackett, also a 3-year survivor, “wanted to know what the skinny was on it, so I could figure out how we were going to handle it,” she said.
Mary Beth Gibson is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Here for the Girls. She’s also an 11-year survivor. She remembers the day she was diagnosed.
“It was my middle son's birthday. He was turning 6. And my husband was holding my hand when we got the news at the doctor’s office, and my first thought was I want to see my kids grow up.”
Gibson realized on her journey to beat breast cancer that younger women could benefit from a support system that caters to their special interests and concerns. Today, Here for the Girls, Inc. is a two-fold not-for-profit: supporting women in person under “Beyond Boobs!” and online under “Pink Link”.
Fett attended her first Here for the Girls, Inc. meeting “the week after I shaved my head,” she said. “And I didn't say much at the first meeting, but when I left I knew I had to go back.
“I can walk in and if I start crying, these women know exactly what's up,” said Keel-Saunders. “I don't have to explain myself as if I'm at home. My husband’s like, ‘What's wrong? What do I do? What do we do?’”
“You never are afraid to look at someone's scars or share what to expect when you have a surgery coming,” said Brackett. “So you always feel on some level like no matter what it is, you can do it because you have your sisterhood to help you through it.”
Keel-Saunders remembers one of those sisters, Alveta Henderson, who passed away this year after battling breast cancer. She says Henderson was special to her and left a lasting memory.
“When we were at [a] retreat this year, we did a self care class and as you're walking they are whispering these things to you. And I know it was Alveta,” said Keel-Saunders. “I knew it was Alveta that was just saying… I guess I've always kind of doubted myself, but she told me that I was a great mother, and that I was beautiful and I was strong.”
Experiences like those with Here for the Girls, Inc. have been very important to Fett.
“I would hate to think about my journey without this organization,” she said. “I don't think I'd be in a good place right now, because honestly, this group held my head above water.”
And that’s exactly what Gibson hoped the organization would do for younger survivors.
“We are about living,” she said. “We have Kleenex handy, but we laugh more than we cry. We do fun wild stuff like jump out of airplanes. And get people at the Sandler Center performing in front of hundreds of people, dancing.”
“When you have something bad happen, it feels so much better when you can turn that around into something positive,” said Brackett, who now volunteers with the organization as one of its support group facilitators.
However, Here For The Girls, Inc. is not just open to breast cancer survivors and fighters. There are also opportunities to volunteer, donate, partner, and attend upcoming events.
For more information click HERE.