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Beyond Boobs support group helps young breast cancer survivors

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – These days it seems more women in their thirties — and some who are even younger — are being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The younger patients and survivors have discovered that their needs can be quite different than their mother’s or grandmother’s.

As a result, two survivors and friends from Williamsburg are helping younger women cope the disease.

On a Thursday evening at the Richmond home of Alden Rice, a few women gather but it’s no ordinary card game among girlfriends.

This is the first gathering of a club that no one wants to belong to, but the young women are grateful to still be in attendance.

When chapter founder Alden pulls the inspirational angel card with the word “gratitude,” she’s ready with an answer.

Alden says to be in a place where she feels healthy again is a huge source of gratitude.

Alden, who was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, brought a unique breast cancer support group to Richmond called “Beyond Boobs” last year.

The women in the group say the unconventional group’s name is fitting because members receive various types of support.

Beyond Boobs, organized in Williamsburg in 2006, is the brain child of survivors Rene Bowditch and Mary Beth Gibson.

Rene says they picked the unusual name for the group because they did not want to be associated with breast cancer. We want to be beyond it. We are beyond it. We want to be beyond being defined by our breasts.

They say it’s the philosophy of women who have learned breast cancer is not just their grandmothers’ disease.

Only five percent of all breast cancers occur in women under age 40.

Rare but still worrisome for women like Mary Beth who was 40 with three young children when she found her lump.

Mary Beth says there’s a need out there. We’re filling a need. When you watch these young women get together and share. And laugh and cry together, it’s been something that’s been missing.

Beyond Boobs specializes in what they call “healing humor:” t-shirts with quirky slogans such as “check these out” and Rene’s alter ego, the Good Health Fairy.

And more than awareness, they say they’ve launched “a breast health action movement.”

Rene says doing the things you need to ensure early detection. That’s our best weapon until we find a cure.

You can get more information about Beyond Boobs by contacting Mary Beth Gibson at marybeth@beyondboobsinc.org or Rene Bowditch at rene@beyondboobsinc.org.

Both women say they are available for speaking engagements.

For information on the Richmond chapter, contact Alden Rice at 804-873-9682.

Watch CBS 6 News for the latest news on breast cancer — and click here to register for our monthly Buddy Check 6 self-breast check email reminders. 

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