Living with chronic cancer


I like to stay connected to people, and it is not uncommon for me to see names of those I have interviewed for stories in CURE when I open my email. But lately it seems like it has all been bad news. Since we are a cancer publication, I have come to expect some bad news, but lately it has all seemed bad. Then yesterday I got an email from Fran. Those of you who have been with us for a long time probably remember Fran DiGiacomo as the artist who was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer back in 1998. Fran always told people she expected to get cancer since no one in her family lived past 45; they all died of cancer. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 40 and survived, she thought she had it made. She and her husband Len could concentrate on raising their two sons, and Fran could paint her award-winning portraits. Then came the stage 3C ovarian cancer when she was 54 and the surgeries and the recurrences. Her art remains at the core of her personal survival plan that includes the five elements of spirit, discipline, laughter, purpose and focus. In her spare time between surgery and portraits, she wrote I'd Rather do Chemo than Clean out the Garage, her book of wisdom about cancer and carrying on. In the midst of all this her boys were growing and starting their own lives, finally marrying, which allowed Fran to be mother of the groom twice. She was happy if that was all there was. Then came a grandchild and she got to be a Mimi. Paul, now 3 is also lovingly called Bulldozer Man in the DiGiacomo family. His cousin Quinlan came along two years ago. That's her grandfather Len holding her in a Fran DiGiacomo portrait at her blog site where you will want to keep up with her.Art is still her passion, she says, but now a few minutes on the phone with Bulldozer Man and she perks up with a glow in her heart and renewed energy to attack the latest canvas. She gladly heads for the airport on her way to California to visit with the knowledge that her monther and brother did't get to see their children grow up. This is what she wrote me this week: "I know I've had to work harder at life than some people, but I have no anger and no regrets.....I'm too busy marveling every day at the fairy tale I've been allowed to enjoy. When those soft warm arms are around my neck, he kisses me on the cheek and says,"Te-tu Mimi (thank-you), I thank God for allowing me to have this and every day." And then . . .Can you believe there will be two more by Christmas? It's really happening, just like for other people. . . "

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