West Side Elementary School teacher Marsha Durham, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year after a routine mammogram.
"Everything sort of became surreal. It was almost like it wasn't happening to me, and I just started going through the motions. My family sat down that night and my daughters had a lot of questions. We said we were going to do everything we could to beat it, and then we prayed," she said. "That night, we all slept in the bed together and I remember thinking we were all on this island together, and no matter (what), we were going to stay afloat and get through this."
Durham, now a cancer survivor, said she didn't have a family history and was shocked when her doctors gave her the news.
"The face of breast cancer is changing. People think that they won't get it if they don't have a family history or they're too young. We need to be proactive in our health," she said.
Lisa Gunn, 44, of Marietta, thought she was doing everything right. She ate well, exercised regularly and had a good pregnancy. She was breastfeeding her seven month old son when she felt something "that didn't feel right." She was 33 years old and diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
"I found out at 10 a.m. and was in the transfusion chair by 2 p.m. I didn't have time to wait. It was a very aggressive cancer," she said. "I remember feeling blindsided and betrayed by my body. I had this very healthy pregnancy, was walking every day, eating right and was young."
Gunn said she's learned the importance of self-exams.
"I think young women need to be more vigilant with self-exams. I'm a big advocate of that. I had never touched my breasts before, but I'm convinced that I should have been checking them at a much younger age," she said. "Just because you're not encouraged to get a mammogram until you turn 40 doesn't mean that you shouldn't check them in your 20s and 30s."
Gunn is an 11-year survivor of the disease. She, too, had no family history of breast cancer.
Claire Leming, 55, of Marietta, learned breast cancer doesn't discriminate on age or family history. She was 26 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I was one of Emory's youngest mastectomy patients. Breast cancer doesn't have any age limit. It's not picky about who is chooses," she said.
Since her diagnosis, Leming's mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.
Leming is a 29-year survivor.
When Durham was diagnosed with breast cancer, she said the floodgates opened for friendship.
"Once you've been diagnosed, you start realizing there are a lot of women out there who have gone through this," she said.
Some of the friends she's made are breast cancer survivors and mothers of students at West Side Elementary. Others she's known for many years. When she came up with the idea to make a breast cancer survivor scarecrow and put it on the Square, the women sprang into action.
"I've always thought even the smallest act can have an impact. We thought it would be a great idea to put it up with all the people that come through here," she said.
Next to the scarecrow is a chalkboard with the words "in celebration of" and "in memory of" printed neatly across the top on either side. People strolling through the Square have stopped to admire the scarecrow's bedazzled shoes and outfit. Some seem to pause in memory, and many have signed the tribute board.
"I'm really excited to see the list growing on the 'in celebration side,' but it makes me sad when someone writes on the other side of the board. I don't want anyone to ever feel like they're alone when they're going through this," she said. "I don't think breast cancer gave me a new life. I just really appreciate the life I have now. Hopefully this is something that my daughter won't have to face in her lifetime."