FAIRMONT - Larissa Hillmer of Northrop and Steph Johnson of Fairmont were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. While they didn't know each other, the disease brought them together.
"We were introduced through mutual friends," Hillmer recalled. "I was diagnosed shortly after Stephanie was. We ended up sharing stories and connected."
As they went through their battles, they realized they wanted to use their experiences to help others.
Larissa Hillmer and Stephanie Johnson
"After the initial shock wore off, I told myself that when I get through with this that I wanted to help other people because of how many are affected in our area," Hillmer said. "You hear about a new case almost every week."
Together, the women formed "MN FABS," or Minnesota Fairmont Area Breast Cancer Survivors. The first meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 6 at Tami's on the Ave. in Fairmont.
The group is open not only to breast cancer survivors, but also family members and friends who are supporting someone fighting the disease.
"Survivors can share their stories if they want to," Johnson said.
"We're not putting anyone on a pedestal," Hillmer said. "We can tell our stories, and everyone is free to share, visit, talk about what works."
And if what works includes sitting back and listening or prayer, that's OK too.
"We just want to build a network of loving support," Johnson said. "We know family members are also affected, and the group is open to them too."
So far, about a dozen locals have responded to the group's invitation. The original first meeting was pushed back because of inclement weather, but the group hopes to continue to give support through its recently established MN FABS Facebook page.
"This is something we feel in our hearts that we need in the area," Johnson said.
Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org