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Published October 30 2013

Women's Wisdom: Sharing support through life’s challenges

If you go

What: F-M Breast Friends, breast cancer support group

When: 7 p.m. every first Wednesday of the month.

Where: Moorhead Public Library, 118 5th St. S.

Info: The group includes women ages 24-65 who were brought together by breast cancer. The meetings are intended to be a “safe place” to ask questions. Support is offered to each other regardless of year of survivorship.

Tonight is the night of spooks and screams, tricks and treats, family and friends.

In Brazil, my homeland, there is no Halloween. If one would have told me when I was a child that there was a holiday where I could dress up like a monster, knock on peoples’ doors, take a peek at my neighbor’s living room and get free candy, I wouldn’t have believed it. It sounds too good to be true!

This year my daughter asked if she could invite her best friend over to go trick-or-treating, stating that otherwise “You will ruin my Halloween night if I can’t invite my BFF.”

Though dramatic, my 7-going-on-13-year-old has a point – there is nothing better than sharing special moments with that person we can count on anytime through good and bad, through health and sickness.

Our inspiring woman of the week, Lisa Verworn, understands the power of true friendship. Verworn, along with high school classmate Pam Knapper, is the co-founder of FM Breast Friends Support Group.

After talking with health care professionals, the two realized there wasn’t a support group in the Fargo-Moorhead area to help women dealing with breast cancer, so they pioneered the first one. The co-founders hope to provide a place where other women can experience the same friendship and empowerment that helped the two conquer their battle with breast cancer.

I met Verworn for the first time at one of Women Impact’s monthly events where she shared her powerful story and beautiful mission. Her passion was captivating.

Last week, Verworn modeled at “Bras on Broadway.” Her killer outfit grabbed my attention, and though her bra had the over-the-top grandeur of a Halloween costume, there was nothing dark or scary about her look’s message.

Verworn’s brassiere was graced with candelabra, and in my mind it seemed to say to the room that women don’t need to go through in a dark and endless tunnel in the face of cancer. Like her mission, there is light in the darkness, burning with hope, friendship and love.

When I hear the mission behind Breast Friends, it makes me realize that October stands for so much more than “Breast Cancer Awareness.” This difficult experience helps us to raise awareness about so many uplifting things in our lives.

Verworn and Knapper’s inspiring story shows that, just like in a Halloween night, we can transform the scariest battles of our lives as an opportunity to celebrate friendship, family and love.

Q. What was the most challenging chapter of your life?

A. One of the most difficult chapters of my life was my breast cancer diagnosis.

Going through the treatment and being a single lady and going through it alone was really hard. The fear of the cancer coming back is always in the back of my mind. I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome that fear, it will always be there.

Q. What empowered you to overcome those challenging moments?

A. With the cancer, I think that it was the love and support of family and friends. I could always feel when people were praying for me. I was just so afraid for my life and if I would lose it. My mom told me to dig my heels in and that I needed to start fighting.

I think it was the help of others that empowered me. Now that I have the breast cancer support group, it’s being a part of the group that supports each other and knowing that every feeling we have is a normal feeling. You just need support, and studies show that a support group prolongs your life.

Q. What advice would you give your teenage self?

A. I would say just live your best life, be true to yourself, live for today. Live like it’s going to be your last day. It may not be cancer, but it may be something else.

Be kind because kindness could be one of the best things you could do for someone because you don’t know what’s going on in their life.

Q. How can women best impact the world today?

A. I would just say giving it back and paying it forward to people. It may not be impacting the world and I may only be one person, but I am one person and a force to be reckoned with.

To live your best life, you have to be healthy and be ready for those challenges.

Chris Linnares is international author, psychotherapist and founder of Women’s Impact, formerly Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she lives in Fargo with her daughter and husband Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of the Forum. To suggest a woman for this column, email chris@womensimpact.org. For more information on Linnares’ work, visit www.chrislinnares.com.