Group offers hope to breast cancer survivors

Published 10:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti

Group offers hope to breast cancer survivors

Breast Friends For Life to expand outreach program


LaGRANGE – When Carly Byrd was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time at just 29 years old, she felt alone and in need of support from women who had traveled the same scary journey.

Byrd discovered the “Breast Friends For Life” organization, a group of breast cancer survivors and caregivers who share stories of hope and encouragement.

The non-profit organization gave Byrd the comfort and reassurance the 29-year-old needed as she began intense chemotherapy treatments and radiation.

“We talk about everything from the emotional turmoil of a diagnosis to feeling guilty because of the emotional toll it also takes on our loved ones,” she explained. “We celebrate recovery. But you also share this fear the next lump you find, a random cough or a doctor’s visit will be your next cancer diagnosis.”

That was almost six years ago. Byrd is now in remission but still attends the Breast Friends For Life meetings once a month and participates in fundraising events.

The group spends time educating members about the disease and treatments – and providing emotional support for patients and their loved ones.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is a very isolating experience,” she said. “But being with fellow survivors and people still going through treatment can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety. You feel encouraged through other people’s stories. As a young breast cancer survivor, I wish I had more young survivors to encourage and to be encouraged by … the group also gives you a way to focus on others and not be bogged down in your own situation.”

Her mom, Lisa Thompson, also attends the meetings too – as a caregiver.

“I’m still in a support role for Carly. I will always be that,” she explained. “It’s nice to have support from other caregivers and to compare notes … As a caregiver, your job continues even after remission.”

“It’s so much harder for the caregiver than the patient during the main event, such as surgery,” Byrd added. “It seems harder for the patients as more time passes.”

Thompson agreed.

“I just moved back to LaGrange and I can definitely see Carly struggling more now than when she had a bald head from the chemo and scars from her mastectomy.”

Breast Friends For Life was formed in 2007 by four breast cancer survivors: Lynn Howard, Sherry Callaway, Tina Quiggle and Wanda Lowe. The four women created the 501c3 non-profit organization to help other women and men battling the same deadly disease – whether it was through emotional or financial support.

The group sponsors various activities around town.

Their biggest fundraising function is the Paint the Town Pink event in LaFayette Square every September.

All the money raised stays in the community. The funds help breast cancer survivors pay bills, provide mammograms for those who cannot afford to get one, plus finance programs such as curvy yoga and art therapy for all cancer survivors, said Byrd.

Breast Friends For Life is hoping to branch out this year with more outreach programs within the community.

“We want to go into the housing authority neighborhoods in Hogansville, LaGrange and West Point and serve survivors where they live,” Byrd explained. “We want more people to join our organization, but not have them always come to the hospital for meetings. We’ll go to them. We want to expand our reach.”

“Breast Friends For Life is for women and men of all ages, in all stages (of breast cancer),” added Thompson.

The organization intends to provide support for more caregivers and survivors in their fight to beat breast cancer.

“Another woman in our group told us, ‘I never would have crossed paths with any of you if it weren’t for this group.And that is a blessing,’” Byrd said.

Breast Friends For Life meets every third Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m.

Anyone wanting more information on Breast Friends For Life can visit their Facebook page:

People can also contact Wanda Lowe at 706-845-3866 or

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.