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The Young Survivors of West Michigan Support Group

Healing, support and hope for young breast cancer survivors

Lori Ostreko and Lindsay Pavey say fate brought them together. And breasts. Ostreko, who was 32 at the time, and Pavey, aged 28, were both patients at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center. One was contemplating breast reconstruction surgery following a double mastectomy; the other had already completed a successful reconstruction surgery.

They talked inside the doctor's office, one encouraging the other. It was the perfect kind of support for two young women undergoing breast cancer at an age most women haven't even had their first mammogram.

Both wanted other women their age experiencing similar circumstances to have that kind of support too.

So, in 2012, shortly after they met, Ostreko and Pavey co-founded the Young Survivors of West Michigan support group, to give younger women a place to talk, ask questions, and share experiences about their cancer journeys.

"Many different phases of cancer journeys are represented in this group," said Pavey. "Women with young children, or who are now dealing with infertility and even menopause, starting careers, or even still in school, come to this group for support."

The group includes women as young as their mid-twenties all the way up to mid-forties who are at various stages of diagnosis, treatment and healing. They gather twice a month – once at Gilda's Club and once at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids – to share their experiences and, more importantly, support one another.

"It's a very candid discussion," said Ostreko. "Everyone in the room completely understands. There's a deep sense of empathy for one another, as well as levity."

The two friends chuckle as they admit that the conversation can get just as lighthearted and fun as it can be serious.

And the support extends beyond that one-hour, bi-weekly session.

"We send cards to each other, visit each other in the hospital, and help out each other's families when there's a need," said Pavey.

More than friends, this group of women is made up of kindred spirits going through very difficult situations. Not situations they signed up for, especially when so many of them are so young.

"It is not common for women our age to be undergoing breast cancer treatment," said Pavey. "Many times, other patients in the waiting room think we're there with our mom. We're not."

Of all breast cancer diagnoses in the United States, only about 11 percent are in women under the age of 44, according to www.cancer.gov.

The important thing, Ostreko says, is that while it is uncommon, women don't have to go through it alone.

The Young Survivors of West Michigan meets at the following times:

First Thursday of the month

6 p.m.

Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, 5th Floor
250 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
EVERY THIRD TUESDAY of the month at 6:00 p.m. at Gilda's Club.
Dinner at 5:30 p.m.: call ahead to let them know if you will be eating
Childcare provided: call 48 hours in advance to let them know if you need it.
(616) 453-8300 www.gildasclubgr.org
1806 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

EVERY THIRD TUESDAY of the month at 6:00 p.m. at Gilda's Club.
Dinner at 5:30 p.m.: call ahead to let them know if you will be eating
Childcare provided: call 48 hours in advance to let them know if you need it.
(616) 453-8300 www.gildasclubgr.org
1806 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504Third Tuesday of the month

6 p.m. (dinner provided; call ahead if you'd like to join the group for dinner at 5:30)

Gilda's Club

1806 Bridge Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Childcare provided (call 48 hours in advance to let them know if you need it.
(616) 453-8300 call 453-8300 48 hours to request childcare)

Courtesy: Mercy Health

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