It’s a call that no one wants to receive. It’s a call that will change someone's life forever. The call that the lump found in their breast is not benign. That they have breast cancer.
“When this happens to someone, especially (someone who is) young… It’s a shock. And you go through these levels that you have to deal with,” Arlayne Francis, chair of the Madison County Breast Cancer Support group and breast cancer survivor, said.
Shock was the first phase Francis went through when she got the call that she had breast cancer, she explained. The second was guilt.
“Why me? What did I do? What did I eat when I was five-years-old that caused me to have breast cancer,” Francis asked.
Guilt is something that a lot of breast cancer patients feel, she explained, and one of the harder phases to work through.
It is a topic often discussed in the Madison County Breast Cancer Support Group, where Francis said many women believed their family members and loved ones blamed them for the hardships that breast cancer brought about.
“We don’t want them to feel that guilt,” Francis said of those battling against cancer.
The next phase, Francis said a lot of breast cancer patients go through, is trying to figure out why they had gotten breast cancer.
Francis said her grandmother had suffered from breast cancer, while her aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
During her grandmother's battle with breast cancer, Francis said she decided to take the test to see if she carried the cancer gene.
“Knowing your family history is really important,” Francis said. She said the next phase for her, and others, was deciding what her options were to conquer the cancer.
“This is the stage that you work with your doctors and your oncologists. If it weren’t for my doctors I wouldn't be here,” Francis said.
She said, during that time, it is important to listen to those who know what they are talking about, such as doctors, and not someone who chooses to tell you “my mother died at 38 and you’re 36.”
“Don’t let others pull you down because you have this,” Francis said.
When she first went to Lexington to meet with a cancer specialist, Francis said she felt she had a death sentence.
“He walked into the room and said, ‘Well with your attitude and my knowledge of chemicals we’re gonna take care of this,” Francis recalled.
However, when she returned to him 15-years-later after her cancer reemerged, her doctor wasn't so optimistic.
Finding support during this time is critical. Francis found strength where she could.
“One day I found an attitude pin…. Every time I got down, I’d reach up and take ahold of that pin and say, ‘Okay God, help me here.’… It was four years before I was able to take that pin off,” Francis said.
Despite her grim outcome, countless treatments, and subsequent findings of secondary cancer, Francis survived.
Since then, she has been able to build a community of women in the Madison County Support Group to lift one another up and teach each other about what they may experience through the various phases of breast cancer.
“We want them to know that other people are here for them… You’re not alone in this. There are lots and lots of women who are going through the same things,” Francis said.