It’s estimated that 900 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Erie County.
The Breast Cancer Network of Western New York isn’t just a place for support.
It’s an army of strong women building physical strength and resilience.
Some have even come full circle to help others who were once in their shoes.
Tai Chi isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of healing from a major surgery.
But for these women, it helps more than you think.
For 10 year surivior Claudia Bartolotta, it puts her in a comfortable place.
“Meeting other women who are in the same position — balance, just a well feeling all the way around, a good way to start the week,” said Bartolotta.
She began taking classes when she was diagnosed and learned she wasn’t alone.
“I started because the instructor who was teaching was a gentleman who had gone through breast cancer himself,” said Bartolotta.
The primary focus of the exercise is relaxing the body.
“When you’re in my class you focus on only the movements of your own body… not anything else that’s going on in your day,” said Judyanne Bonafede, the class instructor.
It’s something hard to do for those going through treatment or recovering from surgery, but they’re surrounded by an army of fighters.
The class offers a sense of camaraderie.
“You know it’s like ‘ok you can talk to them.’ They’ll understand what you have been through. If you have an issue with something… they’ll understand because they’ve been there,” said Bev Jasinski, the President of The Breast Cancer Network of Western New York.
Besides Tai Chi, The Breast Cancer Center of Western New York offers a long list of classes that are similar as well as educational.
There are also support groups, book clubs and seminars.
And the women who once received so much help, in turn, come back to help those fighting for their lives.
“I try to give back by volunteering and being there for others,” said Bartolotta.