Breast cancer survivors offer hope, financial support to patients on metro Atlanta's south side

Inside Harbor of Hope's office space in Clayton County, breast survivors are putting together care bags for newly diagnosed patients, surrounded by anything and everything a woman facing breast cancer might need.

"Whether it be bras with prostheses, scarves, hats, for when they're bald-headed, everything is free here," Teresa Garmon says.  "We want women to look as normal as they can going through this and feel good about themselves when they look in the mirror."

And the women in this group have all faced their own diagnoses.

Garmon, a retired teacher and mother of 2 who now lives in Forsyth, Georgia, was diagnosed in 2009.  

She was 54.

"Once you're diagnosed, you just want to talk to somebody that's walked through it," Garmon says.  "It's the unknowing that you're more concerned about than the cancer itself.

Laura Alvarez of McDonough, also a teacher and mother, has been through breast cancer treatment twice.

"I am free of cancer, and I'm taking care of myself every single day," Alvarez says.

Sonia Ray of Stockbridge is another two-time survivor.

She says she saw a real need for a breast cancer support program for patients living on Metro Atlanta's south side, in Henry, Clayton, DeKalb, and Rockdale Counties.

"Since I've been to every major hospital in the state of Georgia, I'm very aware of the resources that are available," Ray says.  "And the south side of Atlanta lacks resources. We don't have the same things that they have in other areas. So, we found out that we can be a blessing here."

Laura Alvarez found Harbor of Hope,  which offers a mixture of Christian faith and "been-there-done-that" kind of support , after her first diagnosis.

"I just kept going, I think, at the beginning because I needed it," Alvarez says.  " Then, I realized that I was changing, from receiving to start giving."

After a pandemic pause, the Harbor of Hope support group is now back meeting in person each month.

Garmon says the women tell her it feels good.

"They needed that face-to-face contact with you, so that you can touch them when they cry," she says "We have a lot them that come in  crying. We just hug on him and tell him it's going to be okay. We're going to help them walked in this journey."

And, Harbor of Hope offers financial assistance to patients in treatment who live in their 4-county area.

"(We pay) insurance, to make sure they have a car, car payments, to make sure they get to their appointment," Garmon says.  "We pay for the lights in their house, and water, because they will turn them off, if they're not paid."

Alvarez says it feels good to be able to help women facing cancer.

"We just had the case of a woman who is pregnant with cancer and has two other children," she says.  "She was just asking for help with food and gas, and we were able to help her. So it's very fulfilling to be able to help them."

For more information on Harbor of Hope, visit