Cleveland breast cancer "Metavivors" bringing message of hope to Race for the Cure

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - You'll see a new group at this year's Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Cleveland. They're the Metavivors, all with Stage 4 Breast Cancer that has spread to other organs.

Romona Robinson recently met with two Metavivors, working to raise awareness and funds to fight back.

Jennifer Hendryx found a lump while she was at Disney World in 2015. After a mammogram and biopsy, she got the call from the doctor while she was at her daughter's gymnastics event.

"When she said the words 'you have cancer," I kicked a woman's coffee over," said Hendryx. "I was diagnosed stage 4 from the start, I just was in it, I was in the battlefield."

Jennifer was just 35, with two young children.

Wendy Kozel was diagnosed in April 2004.

"Literally I had been to the gynecologist six weeks prior, there was nothing found, and it was a large lump, bigger than a golf ball," said Kozel.

In 2016, the women started a Metavivors support group in Northeast Ohio.

"Now we're the largest in the nation, we have 36 members," said Kozel.

The group will have a tent at this year's Race For The Cure, to raise awareness of metastatic disease.

"It's important for me to see other women who have gone through the same thing that I've gone through, coming together and doing this as a group and supporting each other," said Hendryx.

"30% of early stage breast cancer will go into metastatic disease sometime in your life," said Kozel. "My big advocacy is to be vigilant about your disease, any pain that is consistent or persistent should be looked at."

Dr. Benjamin Li, Cancer Center Director at Metrohealth Systems, says the Susan G. Komen Foundation is doing a great job creating programs to help patients with metastatic disease, from nutrition to exercise.

"Even in metastatic disease there are a lot of things that can be done to improve your life, it is much more hopeful today than it was 30 years ago," said Dr. Li.

Both women say their families are great support systems, but they depend on each other.

"I'm 8 years metastatic, 13 years with cancer," said Kozel.

"She's my hero, that's for sure," said Hendryx.

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