Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” will immediately catapult you into unknown territory and may change your world in ways that you can’t begin to imagine. We, the women of Here for the Girls, have been in your shoes and want to share our thoughts on the tumultuous time of diagnosis and to offer you hope, inspiration, and power.
Just as everyone is unique, each woman’s breast cancer is different because of factors such as type, stage, and characteristics of the cancer. Because treatment options vary, each woman has to evaluate the risks and benefits of her choices in the context of her own personal values and lifestyle. How women react to having this disease differs greatly as well. There are no rules for how you should act, feel, or respond. Remember, this is a time in your life when restoring your health should be your top priority, so it is okay to put yourself first and allow your “life-support system” of friends and family to help you.
Our members receive support through a variety of programs and services that encourage emotional healing including annual weekend retreats, an annual calendar that includes a breast health guide, educational sessions with partnering physicians, program activities and communications, along with in-person and virtual support. All these offerings are available at no cost to young women with breast cancer.
In the wild, when an elephant is sick or injured other elephants have been known to come alongside her and lean in to hold her up until she recovers or dies. The young women of Here for the Girls are each other’s elephants.
They understand like no one else can. They share hope, knowledge, and what questions to ask. They go to medical appointments and treatments together. They lean in to hold each other up, whether in-person or online, and create a sisterhood based on love, trust, and understanding.
Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” will immediately catapult you into unknown territory and may change your world in ways that you can’t begin to imagine. The members of Here for the Girls have been in your shoes and are ready to share their thoughts on the tumultuous time of diagnosis and beyond and to offer you hope, inspiration, and power.
Breast cancer-related education. We educate our members and their loved ones on what to expect on the breast cancer journey to help ease anxiety and fear. This happens first in our support systems where members share helpful information with each other. We also host educational discussions throughout the year led by professionals to address a range of breast cancer topics. And we produce and distribute an annual “A Calendar to Live By,” which features breast cancer survivors and their inspiring stories as well as a breast health guide with important information on breast cancer, managing risk, early detection, healthy lifestyle choices, and more.
In-person and virtual support. Our in-person support systems in Virginia (as well as a limited number in other states) are led by peer facilitators who participate in an extensive initial training and receive ongoing training relevant to helping the women they support. We also offer robust virtual support for women who can’t attend the in-person meetings.
Programs for women with metastatic breast cancer. Our services for members with metastatic, stage IV breast cancer include an annual retreat that focuses on peer support; workshops on legacy building; and virtual chats led by our social work support team that examine topics related to living with metastatic breast cancer. We are continually building programs for the unique needs of these members.
Connection to information and resources. We want our members to have all the tools and knowledge they need to live their best lives! So, in 2020, we built an online member portal as a hub to share organizational and breast cancer information and videos. The portal also offers a resource library and directory and a member-led forum. Our social work support team can offer referrals to members who need to connect to resources beyond what we provide.
Opportunities to help other young women with breast cancer. Many of the young women we serve get to a point in their journey where they want to give back and help other women with the disease – which is wonderful! Our members can apply to become a volunteer facilitator to help lead one of our support systems; they can serve as an ambassador for H4TG in various ways to help connect us to newly diagnosed women; or they can become models in a future calendar and share their breast cancer story to let a newly diagnosed woman know that she is not alone.
Activities that encourage healing, peer support, and personal growth. Member activities during the year include our annual Renew Restore Retreat, which is a wellness weekend full of sessions and tools for emotional healing and wellbeing; outdoor events that promote wellness and build confidence (like our Beach Takeover for all members); as well as more intimate events organized by support system facilitators. All of these promote bonding with peers who understand because they’ve been there too.