KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For women and men who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer, the information can be overwhelming and scary, but a Knoxville nonprofit helps to ease that burden.
Breast Connect is celebrating five years of helping breast cancer fighters and survivors while searching for a cure.
Breast cancer isn't just a pink ribbon and races in October. It's life-changing.
"Breast cancer tends to be a very complicated disease. There are women who have different surgeries, different treatments, different diagnoses," Nina Reineri, the founder of Breast Connect, said.
Reineri realized the need for a breast cancer advocacy group and community after her own diagnosis in 2011. She knows firsthand how much everyone needs answers and support.
That's why Breast Connect was formed.
"Breast Connect was created by survivors so that we could help pay it forward and help others newly diagnosed," Reineri explained.
This is how it works: you can visit breastconnect.org and sign up to be paired with a sister. That person will have a good grip on your journey, someone who understands what you're going through.
"We have an extensive database that then matches these people based not only their treatments and surgeries and so forth, but also demographics," Reineri said.
The website also has a list of questions you can ask your doctor, resources for those who are newly diagnosed and ways to donate.
You can also join the private Breast Connect Facebook page of over 850 members. There you can ask questions, share victories and relate with a whole breast cancer community.
"We don't want anybody to go through it alone and we don't want them to be stressed or scared," Reineri assured.
The help doesn't stop there. Breast Connect gives free mastectomy kits and flowers through a new initiative with Courage to Conquer called connect2conquer.
The group still needs donations to support the Connect2Conquer initiative. Each kit costs $100.
The nonprofit also raises money for breast cancer research, because ultimately, they want to find a cure for metastatic breast cancer.
"So as women or men are diagnosed and come into the group, we pay it forward and help them and help try to relieve their anxiety and their fears and make life easy for them and make their journey easier than it would have been without anybody," Reineri nodded.
They want to take the guesswork out of what it means when you see pink.
Breast Connect has an all-volunteer board of five people, plus an administrative assistant. Most are survivors or know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.
About half of the Breast Connect Facebook members are from Knoxville. The other half are from different areas, including Atlanta, Nashville and Los Angeles. The long-term goal for the group is to establish Breast Connect in every city.