KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The internet can be an overwhelming place, especially after a cancer diagnosis. The nonprofit Breast Connect hopes to ease that burden.
When users search the words "breast cancer," over 4 billion results pop up on Google. That's why Nina Reineri created a community that just takes a couple of clicks.
"Breast Connect is there to make their life easier, and their breast cancer journey easier than it would be if we did not exist," Reineri said.
The 7-year-old nonprofit is a website, breastconnect.org, and a private Facebook group called "Breast Connect."
Both places are full of breast cancer resources, encouragement and connection. There are over 1,200 members on Facebook alone.
The Knoxville-based group is expanding rapidly and there's nowhere to go but up, according to Reineri.
"Many of them that came in years ago and now are done with treatment and surgeries, and they're now helping those who are newly diagnosed that are brand new, coming in scared, overwhelmed with a lot of anxiety," Reineri said.
The site came to life because of Reineri's own search for answers.
"I was diagnosed in 2011, so it's been a long time for me now and I'm doing great," Reineri said. "I only had at the time, two friends that I knew that had breast cancer, so I didn't have a lot of people, and I do think now it's so different."
It's a connection no one wants to have, but it's a necessary community to lift others up and provide knowledge to get women and men through a cancer diagnosis.
"We've all heard the words, 'You have cancer,'" Reineri said. "It's the same for all of us."
That's what makes Facebook the perfect forum for answers. Every member asks and answers questions about anything and everything.
"They are there to help, they're there to talk, they're there to ask," Reineri said. "'What can I do to make my chemotherapy easier? What should I bring to chemotherapy? How scared should I be about the infusion? What kind of pain Am I going to feel?' And they get a lot of relief by women helping them and giving them a lot of ideas.”
Tons of resources, like first steps after a diagnosis, doctor recommendations, checklists and the Sisterhood program all live on the website.
Fighters can also fill out a form and be paired up with a survivor who has experienced a similar diagnosis or who has similar interests or background.
"Based on your age and demographics, we match you up with a woman who's newly diagnosed, and is looking for a sister survivor," Reineri said.
It's completely free to join the online community.
The group, in partnership with Courage to Conquer Cancer, also wants to offer tangible materials for women who may not have internet or smartphones.
That’s why they’re trying to turn to something tangible, with the “My Breast Cancer Story” booklet. Inside are resources written at an eighth-grade level, places to put scans and important materials and encouragement.
The plan would be for the health departments to hand out those booklets to women who fall in that internet disparity gap.
But, the nonprofits need a sponsor to help pay for the books to be printed. Without adequate funding, they will not be able to offer them.
The two nonprofits also partnered to gift mastectomy kits to women going through the surgery. They also provide flowers from Random Acts of Flowers after the operation.
The initiative is called "Connect to Conquer." You can find more information at connect2conquer.org.
All October long, WBIR Channel 10 is partnering with Breast Connect to show one story a week, promoting breast cancer awareness and resources.
Breast Connect President Nina Reineri said that since Komen East Tennessee dissolved, Breast Connect hopes to fill in the gaps in education and support.
If you are interested in helping or sponsoring the organization in their initiatives, please call Nina Reineri at 865-310-1505.