Bethany Eschedor, who has been battling cancer for 11 years, has started a support group.

J.D. Pooley | Sentinel-Tribune

Support. Encourage. Connect.

Bethany Eschedor’s cancer support group started last year with that simple slogan.

The death of Olivia Newton-John in August inspired the rural Bowling Green woman to start the support group. Newton-John, a singer-actress, had battled cancer for years.

“She was such a huge advocate for breast cancer research,” Eschedor said.

That led to: “I’ve got to do something with this. … I have to see if I can help others.”

Eschedor has been battling cancer for 12 years.

“That C-word sucks for anybody,” she said. “It’s an anxiety that I don’t think is rivaled by anything.”

Throughout her journey, Eschedor said she never sought support. She only knew of large groups and preferred something more casual.

She did some research about starting her own small group and recruited a couple friends to be with her for the first meeting this past fall. The group meets monthly at Eschedor’s home.

There are currently six women who attend and three more are expected. It’s not limited to a breast cancer diagnosis or women, Eschedor said.

“It’s all the same, we all struggle, we all have that journey,” she said. “We just share our stories, share what we’re going through. I try to keep everything positive.”

Eschedor remains incredibly optimistic, while facing a dire diagnosis.

Her cancer journey started in 2011, at age 40, when she found a lump in her right breast.

She was diagnosed was invasive lobular carcinoma. She also tested positive for the BRCA2, known as the breast cancer gene.

“It’s a mutation that can make your chances increased of having breast cancer and other types of cancer,” Eschedor said.

After talking with a geneticist, she had a double mastectomy, did chemotherapy and radiation, and had a hysterectomy. With complications from reconstructive surgery, Eschedor estimated that she spent two years undergoing surgeries and recovering.

She was treated with Tamoxifen, a medication to treat breast cancer that blocks estrogen.

Eschedor was declared cancer free after a five-year fight.

A routine MRI on the Friday before New Year’s Eve in 2020 showed the cancer was back.

It had metastasized to her bones and was in three vertebrae, her sternum, hip and femur. Doctors told her that surgery and other treatments were not an option; she was put on Kisqali to help keep the cancer from spreading further.

Then, she learned that the cancer is in her lymph nodes in her chest and liver.

Eschedor works one day a week for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. She had been full time, but cut back to focus on herself.

She said she’s “getting her affairs in order,” writing letters to future grandchildren and making videos of herself reading books to them.

She’s also planning son Eddie’s high school graduation party.

Her daughter Bella recently married and moved to Scotland with her husband. Son Gus is a student at the University of Toledo.

“I have a lot of faith. I really feel that God is with me and that is a constant conversation, with me, with him,” said Eschedor, who is superintendent of the Hope Lutheran Church Sunday school. “I have such an amazing support system.”

She said her husband, Scott, who is a captain with the Bowling Green Fire Division, takes care of her “beyond anything I could ever imagine.”

She comes from a family of six that is always helpful. When she was going through chemo, they all came over on Mother’s Day to spruce up her yard for spring.

“And I’ve always been a more glass half-full rather than glass half-empty person,” Eschedor said. “I want people to look at me and think, ‘wow, if she can be positive in her journey, then I can, too.’

“That’s my goal, to be a light to someone else, who might be struggling.”

For more information on the support group, reach out to Eschedor on Facebook.

She’s also looking for people to join her first Relay for Life team. The event is set for May 20 at the Wood County Fairgrounds.