Misty Ovens and her husband were thinking about having a baby, so the Richland woman went for a checkup.
“They said everything was fine,” she recalled.
But that night, Ovens , then 34, found a lump in her breast.
It turned out to be cancer. Soon, she underwent surgery. Months of chemotherapy followed.
Now at 37, she’s cancer free. And she’s committed to helping other women who’ve traveled, or are heading, down a similar path.
Ovens is a founder and leader of Warrior Sisterhood, a support group and system for women who’ve been diagnosed with any type of cancer or with a BRCA gene mutation, which means an elevated cancer risk.
The group meets monthly, rotating between the Tri-Cities Cancer Center — Warrior Sisterhood is a cancer center program — and restaurants or similar spots in the community.
Members laugh. They encourage. They share tips and advice.
Cancer support groups often skew older, but this one is for younger women.
“Younger women are in a different life stage. You’re raising kids. You’re in your career, so you’re juggling all that,” Ovens said. “We found a need to have a group that catered to younger women.”
When the group started, they wanted to find the right name for it, said Christie Jo Ray, 40 of Kennewick, another founder and leader.
“There are a lot of organizations out there, but we just wanted (a name) that would fit our personalities. Once you have a diagnosis of cancer, and especially being so young, you meet all these other women who are going through the same thing you are. You just develop this sisterhood. And everybody’s a warrior, so it kind of fit. It fell together.”
Ray was diagnosed with a BRCA mutation at age 37. While she was going through preventative treatment, doctors found early stage ovarian cancer.
She now is cancer free. On a recent day, she and Ovens gathered at the cancer center along with two other Warrior Sisterhood leaders and founders — Julie Kempf and Pam Frick — to talk about their group. It draws patients and survivors, averaging eight to 12 women a month.
The group also gives small financial grants, meant to make things a little bit easier during a time when medical bills and other costs pile up.
Kempf, 44, of Richland, who’s been out of treatment for seven years, said many people helped her when she was in the midst of her fight — bringing meals, making sure her son got to football practice and finished his homework during her chemo nights.
“I can finally do something to give back to other people going through it now,” she said.
She also gets a lot in return, she said. The others too.
On the recent day, the four women talked about what it was like to share their cancer news with their kids. They talked about “chemo brain,” about reconstructive surgery.
About leaning on one another.
They laughed a lot. They often do.
“If we only talked about cancer all the time,” it’d be too much, said Frick, 47, of Richland.
Cancer is what brought their group together. But what keeps it going seems to be the support and understanding it provides — the kind that comes from personal experience.
Those in the group share a special bond.
Facing cancer “makes you a sister” to other patients and survivors, Frick said. “Because you know.”
The Warrior Sisterhood needs financial donations to help with the $100 gift cards it provides to women going through cancer treatment.
It could also use guest speakers, with expertise in topics relevant to cancer patients and survivors.
And it’s looking for local restaurants and similar locations where they can hold their meetings.
Financial donations can be made through the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation, designated for Warrior Sisterhood. To donate, go to www.tccancer.org/foundation.
For more information about the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find Warrior Sisterhood on Facebook.