Cancer survivors say the news of Olympian Kikkan Randall’s breast cancer diagnosis shows the disease does not discriminate.
For many, it’s important to have support from other survivors to get through treatment.
Every Friday, a group of women gathers at Title Wave Books in Anchorage to share their stories. The group is called Women LISTEN and provides an honest discussion about the reality of facing cancer.
"The listen part stands for laugh, inform, support, talk, empower and network,” Deb Ward explained.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. Ward said it’s a club she never wanted to join and tells newcomers, "We never would have invited you to come, but we're really glad you found us,” she laughed.
Ward found it was the companionship with fellow survivors that helped her cope with her own illness. That’s why she started the non-profit organization in 2002.
“I like to come and show the women long-term survivorship is possible because when you're first diagnosed, it's really hard to think you're going to get through six months, let alone 16 years,” Ward said.
The three women at this week’s meeting all had breast cancer, and mothers who had breast cancer, too.
Cindy Decker’s mother was diagnosed when Decker was just a 10-year-old girl and fought a long battle before succumbing to the disease.
"I remember my feeling as soon as I got diagnosed, I called my sister crying and said, "I can't die the way mom did,’” Decker recalled.
Decker was an active, healthy nurse when she was diagnosed at age 50. Now, 10 years later, she’s more active than ever and dominates the Run For Women in her age division.
As a nurse, she sees women who often blame themselves for their cancer. Randall’s fight shows them it can happen to anyone, even a gold medal skier.
“Cancer is not convenient, it's never invited. I feel bad for Kikkan but I have 100 percent confidence she'll get through this and be a great spokesperson for all women,” Decker said. 
Women LISTEN is a female-only group but is open to women who’ve had all types of cancer. They meet every Friday at Title Wave Books from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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Kikkan Randall diagnosed with breast cancer