SALINAS, Calif. -

Three women who work for the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital System have fought breast cancer and are now working to help support other women dealing with the disease.

Nurses Lori Pinto and Julie Johnson have teamed up with Jen LeDuc, a clinical nutrition manager, to start their own support group to serve women who need a Salinas location close to home or work.

"I cannot say enough good things about our employees at SVMH, and what a wonderful collaboration we have with Stanford. The doctors do a wonderful job of curing," Pinto said.  "However, the heart and mind also need to heal. When I first reached out to a support group here, I discovered that we didn't have a breast cancer support group, and at the time we had a men's support group, and a Spanish-speaking support group in progress."

The group, Women Helping Women, will hold its first meeting on May 8 from 1 to 2 p.m. at the SVMHS Cancer Resource Center.

"You see, there is nothing quite like sharing your experience with someone who has had a similar one- especially breast cancer, which is such a life changing event," said Johnson.

About the women:

Lori Pinto, 44, was born at the hospital where she has worked as an RN for 23 years. Last June, she was training for a half-marathon when she noticed she was slowing down and growing more tired. She found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 3 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.  Additional testing revealed she was BRACA 1 positive, meaning she was at high risk for another form of breast and ovarian cancer. After 22 years of taking care of her patients, she suddenly found herself on the opposite side. She underwent six months of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy. She has since undergone radiation.

Julie Johnson has been a registered nurse for 29 years, 27 of those at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. She worked in labor and delivery before transferring to the mother-baby unit, where she's been the clincal nurse manager for just over two years. A little over a year ago, a routine mammogram turned into a breast cancer diagnosis. She found a lot of support in Bernadette Lucas-Burch, the hospital'sOncology Nurse Navigator. Lucas-Burch has helped the women develop their support group.

Jen LeDuc: Leduc came to SVMHS in January 1996 to do her dietetic internship and became an employee soon after. She was a clinical dietition there, then lead clinical dietition and is now the clinical nutrition manager. She says that when she first felt a lump in her breast while in the shower, she immediately made an appointment with her primary care doctor. She had a mammogram and a breast ultrasound performed and tested positive for breast cancer. She began chemotherapy,  and has since been through numerous treatments, including surgery. She is back to work now and is radiation treatment. She also has three more surgeries scheduled.