Our Mission and History
Breast Friends ensures that no woman goes through cancer alone. We are a unique resource for women, their family, friends, co-workers and the community to minimize the fear and isolation of cancer. For over a decade our programs have empowered thousands with emotional support and hope. We are survivors and professionals helping others celebrate the joy of life.
Helping Women Survive the Trauma of Cancer, One Friend at a Time
Breast Friends is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for female cancer patients. Our organization teaches friends and family specific ways to offer support, helps them understand what their loved one is going through, and suggests resources for the woman and for those who care about her. A number of programs developed by Breast Friends have proven valuable in assisting and reassuring the patient, her friends and family.
Breast Friends believes that no woman should go through the cancer experience alone; unfortunately, it happens. We find that even women with friends and family nearby often fail to receive the kind of emotional, spiritual or physical support they really need. Our programs are designed to aid in making sure proper support is given and received. Every woman in America will be touched by breast or other women’s cancers in her lifetime. One in eight women will be diagnosed, and the other seven will know her. Our goal is to reach the seven in order to help the one.
The Beginning of Breast Friends…Because We Understand
Co-founders Becky Olson and Sharon Henifin are honored to share their stories, and hope you will find support and comfort in the work to which they have dedicated their lives: Helping women survive the trauma of cancer…one friend at a time. Both are cancer survivors. They became acquainted in 1991 as co-workers at a corporation in Portland, Oregon. In 1993, Sharon was the first in their circle of friends to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Becky received her first diagnosis three years later, in 1996.
During the next few years and through their own experiences, both women realized that friends, though well-intentioned, were unsure of how to help. As a result, Becky and Sharon often found themselves feeling isolated and afraid, as though they were fighting the disease alone.
In August, 2000, the women met for lunch and discussed starting a nonprofit to benefit breast cancer patients by teaching their friends and family how to offer appropriate help. They chose the name “Breast Friends,” registered it with the state of Oregon, and started to work establishing a website. With great pride, they opened a bank account with two $50.00 checks from their first speaking engagement. In 2001, the fledgling organization received their 501(c)3 federal tax exemption. Breast Friends, with the mission “helping women survive the trauma of breast cancer… one friend at a time,” was truly underway.
Growing to Help Reduce Fear
In 2004, Breast Friends received its first grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. They have received some level of funding from Komen every year since. Komen partnered with Breast Friends in 2005, inviting them to chair their Co-Survivor Initiative in Oregon at Race for the Cure®, a position Breast Friends held for over five years.
To date, the Breast Friends’ website has received over one million visits, and the numbers keep growing. The original site was honored by healingwell.com with the prestigious Editor’s Choice Award. E-mails, letters and phone calls arrive daily from all areas of the country. Some people ask for assistance in handling their difficult treatments, others offer to help through the “Volunteer Match Program,” and others indicate an interest in establishing affiliate chapters in their cities.
As the organization grows the dream of helping thousands of women survive their breast cancer journey grows as well. In 2009, Breast Friends launched its first affiliate in Florida. The second affiliate was launched in 2012 in Pennsylvania.
We are excited and looking forward to what lies ahead.