15 months ago, a dear friend of mine–one of those fun, witty, down-to-earth, all around easy to love ladies–was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  She has three awesome kids, close in age to my own, and a will to live like you can’t believe.  I am talking serious, cry-just-thinking-about-it bravery and grace and poise and wisdom.  God, I am so lucky to know her.

In updating her friends on her treatment, progress, and setbacks since her diagnosis, she has written the most beautiful, inspirational, and honest accounts.  I keep every single one.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I asked her if I could share one of her most recent e-mails.  She, of course, allowed me to, as it is in her nature to try to help others and educate them about breast cancer in any way possible.  Here are Fran’s words:

Welcome to fall. My favorite time of year – I love the change of the seasons, leaves, smell of a fire and a good sweater. October also ushers in Breast Cancer Awareness.I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer on June 4, 2010.Nearly half the women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in June, 2010 are now dead.Cancer is an insidious disease; crafty, adaptable and uncaring.If you love a woman, please remind her that prevention is our best weapon.Please get a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI or clinical breast exam, if not for yourself, for the ones that you love.Remind all women in your life to do the same.Adversity breeds resilience and hope. Hope does matter.

As for me…I take it one day at a time.April was so very difficult.I feel so much better on this new pill form of chemotherapy, Xeloda. I can breathe better and have my hair back. While my cancer tumor markers are good; my scans still show evidence of cancer in my right breast, lymph system, bones and lungs. The down side of this new drug is the 2nd degree burns that it causes on the tips of fingers and the bottom of the feet.My fingertips and feet will blister, crack and then peel. I’ve lost most of my toe nails and on occasion, my toes will bleed. My fingers and feet ache, as if they had been burned. I’ve lost my fine motor skills, but I was never very good at sewing. 

I had surgery on September 7th, to place an Aspira pleural catheter in my right lung.I am allergic to the adhesive that holds the bandage in place.The area must remain dry and clean….so, I find myself wrapped in Cling Wrap more often than I thought I would (shower, outdoor activities where rain is a threat, etc). Currently, a visiting nurse comes on Wednesday to help me drain the fluid.I still go to Fox Chase once a month for routine blood work, doctor visit and infusion of Zometa (a bone strengthening drug).The tradeoff for these indignities is life, an additional day with my family and friends.

Since I am able to do more than I was last winter, we have suspended the meals and groceries for now. Who knows what the future holds for any of us, but some sense of normal is wonderful.Grocery shopping and cooking can be therapeutic.Thank you to the many friends and family who walk this path with us every day.Your grace and compassion are the bright spots in an otherwise dark and lonely existence.

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