KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three East Tennessee women in their 30s were diagnosed with breast cancer within a month of each other during the pandemic. A Facebook group connected their common thread.
Until the last Sunday in October, Laura Roberts, Meghan Besche and Melissa Rush had never met each other in person, but when they did it felt like they'd known each other forever.
All are in their 30s. Roberts is 34, Besche and Rush are 39. They were diagnosed with breast cancer within a month of each other during the pandemic.
An early mammogram caught Besche's; self checks revealed Roberts' and Rush's.
“It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t quarantine, it doesn’t go away because you have different things to do in your life. It’s not afraid of anything," Rush nodded.
The three were strangers until they joined the advocacy group "Breast Connect" on Facebook.
"The mission is just to make it easier, because we can't take it away," Breast Connect President Nina Reineri said. "You know it's there, but we can make that process easier for them."
It's a community of over 850 fighters and survivors, ready to ask and answer questions. The group loves to pay it forward and be the support breast cancer fighters need.
"You can't put a price on having someone like that be part of your support system," Roberts said. "It’s just extremely valuable to have that community with you really forever now.”
Roberts posted in the group when she was first diagnosed in April. Besche, who started her journey a month earlier, sent her a message.
Since then, all three women have connected and stayed in touch over texts and phone calls.
"It helps give you hope, and there's hope for you too," Besche encouraged. "You’re not alone going through this and really have people that understand.”
They've all shared victories, like ringing the bell and finding no new tumor growth, but they've also offered support for the times when things seem uncertain.
While families and friends are willing to lend a helping hand and a listening ear, there's nothing quite like knowing that someone who has walked the same path also has your back.
"We've had our moments that we all just kind of sit and cry together and then you've just gotta pick up and keep going," Rush explained.
While these women didn't know they would be navigating breast cancer at such an early age, they're thankful they don't have to do it alone.
"These are friendships that will be created and will be life-lasting," Reineri said.
Their message is to be aware and know your body wholeheartedly. Reineri believes in speaking up, letting doctors know when something is not right.
"I think it's so important just to be aware," Roberts echoed. "Get mammograms early if you have a family history and just be proactive in your health."
If you or someone you know is a breast cancer fighter or survivor, you can join Breast Connect by going to their Facebook page or visiting breastconnect.org.