RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but one survivor is working year-round to help women in their fight against the disease.
Back in February News 4 told you about Girls Love Mail, a non-profit that provides support for women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer through handwritten letters of encouragement.
Now the program is up and running at St Mary's and they've given letters to about 200 patients so far.
"It kind of takes their mind off of what they're going through," said Laurie Schirling, St. Mary's breast nurse navigator.
Schirling gives the letters to her patients in the beginning of their fight.
Girls Love Mail founder and four-year breast cancer survivor Gina Mulligan said that's the scariest time.
"You get a binder of information that has information about wigs, losing your hair, losing your fingernails," Mulligan said. "It is truly frightening, and so we love that letters go out at that point to say you know what you can do this. You're going to be okay."
Mulligan started the program in 2011 and since then more than 8,000 letters have been given.
"Letters come in and go out," Mulligan said. "We don't always see the reactions."
Schirling does get to see the reactions.
"Some people actually burst into tears," she said. "They're very happy and overjoyed."
Being able to provide that for her patients is exciting for Schirling.
"I always kind of tell them I don't know what's going to be in this one, so it's a surprise to me every time they open it too," she said.
Many of the letters are written by survivors, something Mulligan said really strikes a chord with the patients who open them.
"One woman wrote to tell us that she was getting her second round of chemotherapy and she was there by herself," Mulligan said. "They handed her letters and it just changed her whole experience."
"They definitely feel supported and they know this is somebody who knows what they've walked through," Schirling said.
Schirling said she has never seen anything like Girls Love Mail.
"A lot of times people will approach cancer patients and they want to sell things, but that's not what this is about," she said. "This is definitely an act of love."
Love Mulligan said she sees every day.
"It's really humbling," she said. "I read all the letters and I truly feel like I get to see the best in people."
Mulligan's goal for this year was to send out a mile of mail: 5,280 letters. So far they've sent about 4,800.
If you'd like to learn more about Girls Love Mail, or find out how to write a letter yourself click here