HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – Breast cancer affects over 200,000 women and 2,000 men in the United States each year according to the CDC. Those who are survivors or are actively fighting breast cancer said the battle looks different for everyone. Some of those survivors spoke about their journeys at Sunday’s Breast Cancer Survivor celebration at St. Mary’s in Huntington.

“Something so serious and so scary, you just have to be honest about how you’re feeling with those you love. Like we say, ‘keep stomping through it.’ You don’t really have a choice,” breast cancer survivor Jodi Estep said.

Jodi and her close friend Tia Szendi-Horvath have battled breast cancer for years, and they walked the journey of doctor’s visits, chemotherapy, and putting up a fight. They said it was a lot harder than they had ever imagined before their diagnoses.

 “It is going to change you. You can’t go into it thinking that you’re not going to be affected by everything that happens. I was kind of shocked but the emotional part of it. I thought I was a lot stronger than I was. Luckily, I was surrounded by so many people that helped me and let me be honest,” Estep said.

Both their journeys involved holding their heads up high even in the toughest moments and finding the positives amongst the battles.

“It’s just the way to make it through with a little more grace in your soul and a little more love in your heart,” Szendi-Horvath said.

They both live by the motto ‘keep stomping.’

“Keep stomping, keep going forward, keep pushing as hard as you can. You’re not going to be the same when you come out, but I don’t know – I feel like I’ve come out the other end a better human,” Szendi-Horvath said.

Sunday’s breast cancer survivor event hosted by St. Mary’s was designed to honor survivors and their families no matter where they’re at in the journey. Also, the event reminds people of the importance of regular doctor’s visits to prevent breast cancer.

“Breast cancer can affect one out of every eight women. It only takes a couple of minutes to get a mammogram. We recommend at age 40 to start having a mammogram, to do monthly breast exams, to have a clinical exam by your provider once a year,” Anne Hammack said. Hammack is the clinical coordinator of ST. Mary’s Breast Center.

Through all the lessons learned while battling breast cancer, Jodi said she now shares her story with others to empower them just like she and other survivors did at the event.

“Sometimes it can be hard or frustrating, but at the end of the day, we’re all here to love each other and try to help each other pull through something that’s real crummy,” Szendi-Horvath said.

“That’s always a difficult thing to do to stand in front of people and share. People cry, and we all support them. It’s just an emotional time when you stop and think about the journey that they’ve been on,” Hammack said.