Raychel Funk remembers receiving her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011. Raychel had a nagging feeling for several years that something was wrong, and it was confirmed: she had Stage III breast cancer. She felt overwhelmed, lonely and isolated.
When Raychel was diagnosed on Valentine’s Day, her two boys were 4 and 9 years old. She remembers looking at her already-full calendar, thinking, “I don’t have time for this!”
Over the course of the next year, as she underwent treatment, she was buoyed by the support of family and friends. “My friends were tasked with bringing funny YouTube videos to chemo so that I could spend that time laughing, instead of feeling depressed or sick,” Raychel recalled. “We almost got kicked out once, because we were laughing so hard,” she admitted. Her husband was also a huge source of support. She noted that a cancer diagnosis can put an extraordinary strain on a relationship, but in their case, “my husband rolled up his sleeves, and he said, ‘We are going to fight this!'”
After Raychel’s course of treatment concluded, the phone calls and emails began rolling in. Friends and friends of friends reached out to Raychel, asking for her to talk to someone they knew who was recently diagnosed. Whether it was over the phone or over coffee, Raychel began to fulfill her calling: to provide encouragement and support to recently diagnosed women in need. She remembered that the most helpful thing to her when she was diagnosed was to talk, one on one, with someone who had been down the same road, and who was now on the other side.
Soon afterwards, Raychel began volunteering for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Austin Affiliate. Komen officials knew that she had been working informally, but suggested that Raychel and another survivor, Karen Killoren, collaborate to form a new support system for other Austin survivors. Out of those discussions emerged Survivor ATX, a breast cancer support community run by survivors, for survivors, to lift each other up, create long-lasting friendships and help newly diagnosed men and women know that they are not alone.
Although the group is only a few months old, Survivor ATX has already begun host monthly “Pink Bag” luncheons to provide survivors the chance to hear from local experts on breast cancer-related topics.
The next gathering will take place on Thursday, May 14th from 11:45am-12:45pm at Ballet Austin. Ballet Austin is hosting a complimentary Pink Ribbon Pilates class. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
Raychel wants to emphasize one thing: Survivor ATX is not a pity party. It’s a place to find strength and empowerment. It’s where individuals in any stage of their breast cancer journey come together. Whether they have been recently diagnosed, are in the middle of treatment, or are on the other side and have support to offer, they are not alone! Raychel’s vision for Survivor ATX states: “There is great strength and inspiration to be found within ourselves when we band together.” You can keep up with Survivor ATX by visiting Rallyhood.