A Fashionista on a Mission
- Fashion icon Camilla Franks was diagnosed with breast cancer three months after giving birth to her daughter in 2018.
- Since then, she’s had her breasts, fallopian tubes and ovaries removed for her breast cancer treatment and future cancer prevention.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, like Camilla Franks did, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor.
Franks’ clothing line, CAMILLA, specializes in luxurious resort and occasion wear. With vibrant colors and eye-catching designs, Franks’ clothing has caught the attention of many a celebrity including Beyonce, Oprah, Kate Hudson and Georgia May Jagger. Her life is a fashionista’s fantasy, but she’s also been dealt a very tough hand when it comes to health.Read More
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“Today is the perfect day to check your breasts because you can’t afford to waste a single precious one when it comes to fighting this beast,” she wrote in her caption. “Every day counts. Lather up in the shower and give your boobies a good feel! If anything’s not right, go straight to the doctor… and don’t let a pandemic stop you.”
In her post, she also gave a shoutout to all the people trying to improve breast cancer survival rates.
“I also have so much respect and admiration for the hero health workers on the frontline, the donors who dig deep, and the researchers turning that survival dial up a notch every day,” she wrote. “My story is no different to so many others, but if I can help raise hope, awareness and funds then I will continue to use my voice and advocate wherever I can. Sharing my story as an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation @nbcfaus is both an honour and an obligation for me.”
Camilla’s Cancer Journey
Franks’ breast cancer journey began when she discovered a lump in her breast which forced her to wean her 8-week-old baby off of her breast milk in a matter of days. She then underwent the “bazooka of all chemo” to successfully kill the cancerous cells.
From there, her journey switched to a path of cancer prevention because doctors discovered Franks had a harmful BRCA2 gene (BReast CAncer gene 2) mutation. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins that help repair damaged DNA.
The BRCA2 mutation increases the risk of women getting breast cancer to 45-65 percent before the age of 70. This mutation can also increased the risk of other cancers as well.
“Not only did I have to fight the breast cancer I had,” Franks wrote on Instagram. “I also had to prevent the future cancers I was so much more likely to get – more breast cancer, ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and others.”
Her list of cancer-related surgeries is long. She had a double mastectomy to remove her breasts then chose to remove her fallopian tubes and, most heartbreakingly, her ovaries.
“The divine essence of my womanhood,” Franks previously wrote. “My ovaries, the most sacred givers of life, being taken from me, leaves the biggest hole of all.”
She tried IVF [In vitro fertilization] before her ovary removal surgery to allow her to become pregnant again, but she had no such luck. She’s accepted the fact that she will no longer be able to have another biological child, but the realities of her situation were heartbreaking to say the least. That’s why she’s using her platform to educate others in the hopes that they won’t have to go through something like that as well.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, like Camilla Franks did, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Knowing You’re Not Alone
During a cancer battle, it’s important to know that you are not alone. There’s a community out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and it’s worth it to at least try to connect with some people as you battle the disease.
“Every time I shared the scariest moments of my journey – from being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer with an eight week old baby, having the bazooka of all chemo, discovering I have the BRCA 2 gene variant and needing to have my breasts, fallopian tubes and ovaries removed, to going through menopause on national TV – I felt a tidal wave of love and connection,” Camilla Franks wrote in her most recent post. “The outpouring of emotion from other warriors on their own battlefields all sharing the same fight was overwhelming.”
Franks has been very open about sharing the details of her cancer journey – and she’s definitely not the only one to build a support system in that way.
Kate Hervey is another cancer warrior who has touched many people by sharing her story. A young college girl, she was shocked to be diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that tends to form near large joints in young adults, after seeing her doctor for tenderness and lumps in one of her legs.
Hervey, a nursing student at Michigan State, had to handle her cancer battle during the COVID-19 pandemic and scale back on her social activities as a high-risk patient. That’s when she turned to TikTok as a creative outlet, and inspired thousands.
“One thing that was nice about TikTok that I loved and why I started posting more and more videos is how many people I was able to meet through TikTok and social media that are going through the same things,” she says. “I still text with this one girl who is 22. If I’m having a hard time, I will text her because she will understand. As much as my family and friends are supportive, it’s hard to vent to someone who doesn’t know what it’s really like.”
Hervey is now cancer-free, and says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her TikTok followers.
“I feel like I’ve made an impact on other people and they have made an impact on me through TikTok, which is crazy to say. I can help people go through what I’ve been going through as well.” She has graciously agreed to allow SurvivorNet to use her content in order to help our community.
So while sharing your story for almost 400,000 Instagram followers like Franks might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others about your struggles during a cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you – or help those you share with – unless you try.