RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Women who are fighting breast cancer now have an extra weapon on their side thanks to a creative non-profit, and soon women here in Reno getting treatment through St. Mary's will be able to benefit from it.
Four years ago this month Gina Mulligan beat breast cancer. and she's using her experience to help thousands of women find the strength to fight through her non-profit called Girls Love Mail.
"So if there's ever a time you're feeling alone please think back to this letter and know that I'm giving you all of my strength," said Mulligan reading from one of about 4,000 letters sent to women fighting breast cancer last year through Girls Love Mail.
"We collect handwritten letters of encouragement and we get them out to breast cancer patients who are going through treatment," Mulligan said.
The letters are sent through treatment centers and the recipients' identities are anonymous, so many of them start like this.
"Dear Friend, My name is Miranda. I wanted to tell you how strong and brave I think you are," Mulligan read from the letter.
Mulligan was inspired to start the program after receiving cards and letters from strangers when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.
"You're going through treatment and things are scary," Mulligan said. "The doctors don't tell you a lot of the little details like, for example, when you go into radiation this giant room you're going through this door is four feet thick and they're closing you in there."
Mulligan said they gave her courage.
"A card is very healing," Mulligan said. "You can put it up, you can look at it, you can re-read it."
Mulligan sais it doesn't matter how much or how little you write.
"I think the message is really that you're not alone," Mulligan said.
Susan Oakwood is a 14-year survivor of breast cancer. She said the diagnosis turns your life upside down.
"I found myself constantly seeking people who had gone through this because you don't if know what you're feeling is normal," Oakwood said.
She said a a program like Girls Love Mail would have given her reassurance.
"One-on-one contact is very powerful," Oakwood said.
Which Mulligan said is what makes writing a letter different than donating to a breast cancer fund.
"Your one letter goes to one person and I think that really resonates for the writers," Mulligan said.
"I'm anxious to write a letter," Oakwood said. "I would say you are loved by more people than you know. Reach out to people, friends, family when the going gets tough and it will get tough, but you can do it."
She said she'll remind the woman that cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence.
"Search your will to live and fight," Oakwood said. "Fight as hard as you know how."
Mulligan said a quarter of a million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and she wants you to help her get a letter to each of them.
"Do your breast self exams once a month and when you don't find a lump, write a letter to someone who did," Mulligan said. "If we did that, we could get letters to 250,000 women across the country."
Letters have reached women in more than 600 cities across the country. If you'd like to write a letter and help a woman in her fight, you can find the instructions and more information on the Girls Love Mail website