3/12/02 - Two Friends Help Each Other Battle Breast Cancer

Fighting breast cancer is a long battle. Patients don't just go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but also a winding road of emotions. A road that two Heartland women found a little easier because they had each other to lean on for support. Karen Stephens and Mary Jo Thompson have a lot in common. They both grew up in Bell City, and graduated from high school there. Now, they're both working for the Bell City school district. But a little over a year ago, they found out they had something more in common that neither ever dreamed would happen to them, they both were diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was a shock, two teachers, two good friends in the same school system, it was tragic," Mary Jo Thompson says. Being diagnosed with breast cancer was a shock Mary Jo and her friend Karen Stephens found out on the same day, at the same hospital. Karen says, "In the beginning, she and I were concerned about survival rate and the long term things we were going to be facing.

They faced a lot of things together, surgery, chemotherapy, and losing their hair, something that was hard for both women, but it was a little easier to go through because they had each other. "We've just known each other all our lives," Mary Jo says. Karen says, "Several of my friends were a great support through that, but Mary Jo and I cried together and talked about how scared we were and how important it was for us to see our children grow up."

In January, Karen and Mary Jo celebrated a year of being cancer free, and they're confident they're celebrate many more years of being cancer free together at Bell City school. Karen says, "We both have made a pact we will beat this and we will see our children grow and that we're going to be here for a long time yet."