July 19, 2001 at 4:59 PM EST - Updated June 29 at 8:06 PM
It took breast cancer for two strangers to become friends. Now, Gloria Byrd and Crys Heyob are reaching for recovery... together.
"I met Crys in the hospital, and she was an inspiration to me," said Byrd. "She told me how breast cancer touched her and opened up on an intimate level and told me things I could learn to expect, or things I'd go through that no one else told me."
Heyob went through breast cancer three years ago. It was at that time she first learned about the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program.
"I was in the hospital four days and kept expecting someone to come through the door like me," remembered Heyob. "I never got a visit because your doctor or you or someone from your family has to tell the cancer society, so I was very disappointed that I never got a visit."
So as soon as she was able, Heyob signed on as a volunteer. The program matches women who've undergone the same treatments for breast cancer.
"We had the same surgery, the same issues of recovery," claimed Byrd. "She said you'll feel pain this long, or this is what you can do to help this."
But, the two women have much more in common. Aside from being young with small children, they both shared the same feelings after getting diagnosed with breast cancer.
"At first it's a sinking feeling. The world is spinning, and you're clamoring for something to hold onto," said Heyob.
"That one-on-one relationship and level of intimacy helped me know I'd get through it," added Byrd.
"I am astounded by what she said. It's astounding to know that I helped her and she thought about the things I said."
Heyob recently celebrated three years as a breast cancer survivor. And, in part, because of their connection, Byrd knows when her treatment is over, she'll be celebrating survival anniversaries of her own.
For information on the Reach to Recovery prgram, call the American Cancer Society at 513-891-1600.