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'Women of Hope' luncheon raises money for breast cancer patients, survivors

Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 6:41 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The non-profit organization "Women of Hope" held a luncheon called "Faces of Hope" to raise money for breast cancer patients and survivors.

"We do this for those that we love, for those that we have loved and for those that we will love in the future," said Maria Ashmore, founder of "Women of Hope."

She came up with the idea for the organization in 2006 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I had breast cancer, and as a survivor, the first year I gave back money to the community on my own and had a luncheon and gave away all the money I made. My husband said, 'You can't do that anymore,' and so I said 'Okay, I'll start a foundation,' and he said, 'You don't know how to do that'… well that's all it took, I said 'Watch me!' We've been going 12 years strong," said Ashmore.

She came up with the idea after she noticed the lack of support groups for breast cancer patients and survivors.

"There are no support groups for breast cancer, and I had neighbors, I had friends, I had family, but I lived in a household with all men and that was not a good thing and they didn't quite understand what you were going through, and I had no one that I could actually talk to other than my doctor, or my next-door neighbors, or friends," said Ashmore. "Most of them, even when you finish your treatments, they think 'Okay, get on with your life, it's over,' but it's never over, never over."

Ashmore said "Women of Hope" began with just six people, and she never expected her non-profit organization to have such a big impact.

"At our first luncheon, we had 100 people approximately. We moved venues the next year and we went up to 150 then 200. We had to move venues again and then we have had as many as 500. The room was full today, but I don't know how many we had," Ashmore said.

At the luncheon, Montgomery County Commission Vice Chairman, Ronda Walker, was the keynote speaker.

Walker was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

"It's horrible. It's really horrible, and it's painful physically and it's painful emotionally. It's terrifying because you don't want to die, but you know you could. I have four kids, and at the time they were ages 6 to 16 and I didn't want them to have a sick mom and so I had to put my game face on and put the smile on and keep my life as normal as possible for them, but the physical misery of chemotherapy is something that you can't even understand you just have to endure," said Walker.

She said the support from her friends and family played a big role in her road to recovery.

"I had so many friends that stepped in and literally carried me through. They fed my family for me. They ran my errands for me. They would send maids to my house to clean my house, so I allowed that group of friends-- and some people don't want help, they're embarrassed to ask for help-- but my husband and I couldn't have made it without our circle of friends that just swooped in and got us through," said Walker. "When you need advice, when suddenly you're bald and what do you do with your head and suddenly you need a prosthetic and you don't know where to go, so groups like this are incredibly helpful to answer those questions."

Today, neither Ashmore or Walker have any traces of cancer left in their bodies.

All money raised from Monday's luncheon will help fund care packages, education and support groups.

"Women of Hope" meets the second Tuesday of each month at Frazer United Methodist Church in room 8114 at 5:30 p.m.

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