No one should be faced with the harsh realities of mortality, much less before reaching middle age. Unfortunately, Mindi Erickson-Richey was forced to to just that, at the age of 38. Mindi had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and found herself facing a bilateral mastectomy, a procedure in which both areas of breast tissue are removed.

Mindi, waiting anxiously to be prepped for the procedure, was about to experience a monumental change in her life. This change was not her surgery.

It was here that Mindi met Apryle Schmidt, who happened to be sitting in that same waiting room of Baptist Medical Center Beaches. The duo began as strangers, but felt an immediate bond, sharing the same frightening diagnosis. Apryle had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, and was running a cancer ministry at her place of worship, The Church of Eleven22.

Apryle, though already handling her own struggles with battling the disease, had heard of Mindi’s diagnosis and decided that she would be the support system that Mindi needed.

“I am so thankful God put this girl in my life,” Mindi says. “I had no idea what to expect at any point in this journey. Apryle showed up on one of the most difficult and scary days of my life. I just remember a beautiful woman with no hair coming into my room, smiling and offering me her hand to hold. From the way she looked, I knew that she must have been there for me.”

Later it was revealed that Mindi and Apryle shared not only the same diagnosis and place of worship, but also the same doctor.

“There were so many likenesses between us. I just felt at ease to ask her any questions. I had so many of them,” Mindi says.

Following the day of Mindi’s procedure, the two have been in contact nearly every day. Mindi has since recovered from her surgery and under gone four rounds of chemotherapy. The pair remains a mutual support system, as Apryle continues to battle her cancer that has metastasized and spread to her brain and spine.

Mindi now plans to run her first half marathon in the DONNA Marathon on Feb. 15, to both celebrate her triumph over the disease and show support to all those continuing to combat their own diagnosis. Mindi has formed Team Apryle, made up of sevel runners and walkers wanting to show their shared support for the woman that has helped so many.

Apryle, though she is currently undergoing aggressive treatments and chemotherapy, intends to be a part of Team Apryle to walk the DONNA Half Marathon. Apryle will not let her diagnosis define her as a woman. Rather, she lets her lifestyle become the definition: triathlete, fighter, and loyal friend.

You too can support Team Apryle. Walk, run, or simply cheer on the team on Feb. 15. by registering to participate at www.breastcancermarathon.com. Team Apryle shirts are also available at www.bonfirefunds.com/team-apryle.