Your Health: 3-7-13 UAB courage network against breast cancer

Some employees at UAB have come up with a new plan of attack, to arm employees who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer with an extra shot of courage.

Empowering bonds of friendship are key to overcome fear, difficulty and even disease... and to gain fresh courage.

{}These UAB co-workers have a unique way of combating a common cancer among women, while celebrating life.

{}They are part of the Courage Network, a new wellness initiative for UAB employees.

{}The idea is to build a network of survivors to support or mentor employees as they begin a new journey with uncertainties of breast cancer.

UAB Wellness Director Lauren Whitt, Ph.D says, "Every newly diagnosed individual we will match them with two mentors."

{}Deborah Grimes, J.D. is one of the survivors who developed the courage network idea.

She received a Triple Negative breast cancer diagnosis three years ago.

Grimes says, "I had many people to pour into me when I was diagnosed but the one thing that touched me the most is that someone had to tell me, You're not gonna die. You're gonna survive. That was incredibly powerful." "I was all pumped up I had all this knowledge and experience that I was eager to share."

As Grimes was still taking radiation two years ago, a mutual friend asked her to talk to two year survivor, Kristen Noles who was just scheduled for immediate treatment.

{}Noles says, "The first drug was 12 weeks, every week . When I finished we celebrated and on that Friday evening I'm getting an email from my person saying yeah your done.

Every week I had that chemo was a Celebration that I made it through it. To have someone that acknowledge that and knew that first hand and I would see just smiling at me in a meeting or in the hall or asking me to go get a cup of coffee it was awesome!"

Mary Gibson says, "We're there to say we made it you can make it. You can keep working."

It's not a support group, 5 year survivor Mary Gibson says, It's more of a sisterhood.

Her partner is a nurse in the hospital.

Gibson says, "It was the day she was suppose to start her chemotherapy

So I called her on the phone and she said I'm so thankful you called can I come over I said sure she came right over she worked right across the street from me.

We sat and we talked about chemotherapy and what to expect and laughed a little bit."

The partnerships don't have to be one on one . it can be a group.

{}Candace Grimes-Smiley, a three year survivor who doesn't usually talk about her story, has learned by sharing her story she can help someone else. That was advice from a 10 year survivor she's partnered with.

Grimes-Smiley says, "With her background in social work I'm really excited to link them to services, tell them how I felt ."

{}Going through the survivor process while being open, giving and courageous.

{}Deborah Grimes says, "The fact that I have breast cancer means something and it meant that I'm suppose to get something out of it and even more than that I'm suppose to give."

{}Members of the Courage Network will also celebrate survival anniversaries every quarter.

So far, about twenty employees are in the network.

It launched last Fall, but will officially kick off this Spring.

{}Members went through training which includes how to communicate, understanding boundaries, and how to mentor.

However, that willingness to connect goes a long way.

{}To become a member of the Courage Network with UAB Wellness, you have to be a current breast cancer patient or a breast cancer survivor.

To join, just register online at