APPLETON, Wis. — Victoria Gossens was shocked when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a year-and-a-half ago after having a routine mammogram.
"It is terrifying. It's very difficult to even explain the intensity of the emotion, because it's so chaotic," she explained.
A week after learning she had breast cancer, she met a person who told her that she was going to be a survivor.
"I thought survivor? I am not just going to survive this. I mean I know I have to survive this, but there has to be more to it."
Victoria found herself repeatedly writing down one word.
"I have to see Thrive. I have to have it all over the place, because I feel so vulnerable."
With the help of her son, she created a Thrive logo and had it printed on T-shirts for friends and family. It gave her strength to push through surgery and radiation. Now, she's cancer free and sharing her message of hope and encouragement with others by creating her own website called Thrive Together. She just started a Facebook page as well.
"What Thrive Together was designed to do is to help people remember if they're in the throes of the acute phase, that they are going to be able to get through this experience, learn, grow and use it for good," she explained.
The website contains a blog where people can read inspirational stories written by people who've experienced and overcome challenging times. It encourages readers to share their own 'Thriver' stories as well.
"It's meant to be an online community where people can go and get support," Victoria said.
You can also purchase Thrive merchandise in the online store. Rico's Family Restaurant recently included the items in a raffle. Victoria used the proceeds to purchase T-shirts and canvas bags that she handed out for free to patients like Jeanette Olson as she arrived for treatment at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center.
"I think it's great," said Olson. "I think a lot of people feel alone in their journey, and they need all the help that they can get."
Dr. Shannon Schmidt, a ThedaCare Oncology Physician, said Thrive Together is a positive resource that she will recommend to her patients.
"Patients that are engaged and in good mental health are more likely to stay compliant with their medications, stay on time with their treatments if they're receiving chemotherapy. So yes, you know I think that really having those kinds of supports can really, really be instrumental to the patient's treatments," she said.
Victoria wants to turn Thrive Together into more than a website. She's hoping it will grow into a global movement.
"What I know is the tremendous resilience of the human spirit and that's what we want to tap into. Reminding people in those dark days that they will be resilient, even if they don't feel it at that moment."
Victoria plans to donate a portion of the sales of her merchandise to a wide variety of local non-profits and individuals to help support their missions as well.