NewsPay It Forward


‘Breast Cancer Champions’: Woman using her fight to inspire others with disease

Posted at 3:30 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 19:06:16-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich., -- Michelle Haner has no choice but to fight. The 56-year-old retired nurse and veteran has been fighting since she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2012.

"At that point in my life, it was, are you going to fight this? What are you going to do?", she she told FOX 17 News. "I had a purpose, and that was to help people."

As Haner began treatment, she came up with an idea on how to impact others during a chemotherapy session.

Drawing on her background, she decided to create a support group online to empower and encourage other women fighting the disease. The group, "Breast Cancer Champions", has attracted nearly two thousand members since it was created. It has become an online forum to garner support, ask questions and learn about resources.

"I'm there for as many women as I can be. And, I fight with them, to teach them how to fight," Haner said. "I've learned that some battles are not always nice, and
they're not always easy. And a lot of people don't know how to fight a battle."

Haner said the "Champions" travel the country to attend events and even host projects like "Cover Me with Love", where volunteers knit hats, blankets and shawls for other cancer patients. She would like to see the group eventually become recognized as a non-profit.

"We hope to change the future for every woman who suffers from breast cancer, who has to go through treatment," she said. "To me, it's worth it. Every minute."

Haner continues to impact women locally, offering an immediate support system to anyone in need.

Ruthann Swisher, a former co-worker and friend, said Haner was the only one there when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

"When I found out I had cancer, I said a prayer and I know that Michelle was the answer to my prayer," Swisher said. "She went with me for every one of my chemo treatments...We did this together. She was my support system... She doesn't just do this for me, she does this for everybody."

Swisher and Haner are both breast cancer survivors now.

As the October Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Haner is receiving a $500 prize.

To learn more, or to join the group, search "Breast Cancer Champions" on Facebook.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Stephanie Repp, our September Pay it Forward Person of the Month.