Thirty-Three Years Later - She Never Looked Back!
I have seen my mother meet a scared
woman who just had a mastectomy, grab her hand and twenty minutes
later they are smiling and laughing. Fran has a way of making a
what ever you want. She believes having cancer makes you an
automatic member of her exclusive club of which she is the proud
spokesperson. Fran always speaks from her heart.
In 1969, Fran's younger sister was
diagnosis with breast cancer. This upsetting news caused my mother
to check her own breasts where she found a hard lump the size of a
lima bean. Three days later she had a modified radical mastectomy
removing her left breast and all her lymph nodes. She did not
require radiation or chemotherapy as she had found her cancer before
it spread to the lymph nodes. We believe this timely diagnosis
resulted directly from her breast
self-examination which saved our mother's life.
Back in those days diagnosis was a
difficult process. First women had to go through a full surgery for
just the biopsy. Then while the women where in recovery, they would
get their pathology results. If it was cancer, then a few hours
later, women went back into surgery for a mastectomy. When told
about her cancer, Fran informed her doctor, "I need to live
until my son turns 18." Richard is the youngest of us and was
only in fourth grade at the time. For my mother a single mother of
three, there was simply no other possible outcome.
We can honestly say; she never
looked back. She wears anything she wants. She actually has a boob
and a bra for every occasion. She will gladly show them to anyone
who is curious. Thirty years ago reconstruction surgery was not an
option. When reconstruction did become available, my mother was so
comfortable with her body; she simply could not have been bothered.
Whenever she meets a women going
through breast cancer treatment she always teaches them to crawl
their fingers up the wall and stretch out their arm muscles. This
exercise is very important for regaining a full range of mobility.
Swinging her arms was of utmost concern to "Fran the
Golfer" since nothing was going to stop her from playing her
favorite sport. She actually shot a Hole-In-One, post mastectomy!
Fran accomplished two entire
careers after her cancer treatment. During the 70's and 80's, she
designed women's sportswear for a Los Angeles manufacturer, Amy Lynn
of California. Amy Lynn shipped thousands and thousands of dozens of
my mother's blouses to JC Penny, Mervyns, and many others retail
outlets across the country. I would not be surprised if these
indestructible polyester wonders are still hanging in women's
After designing for 20 years, Fran
started teaching Fashion Apparel and Design at West Valley
Occupational Center, in Los Angeles. She is
uniquely skilled in commercial pattern making, a form of apparel
engineering which she can draft by hand. She has many graduate
students who work through out the fashion and television industry.
Often when visiting my mother, the phone rings and it is one of her
students inviting Mrs. Cashman to lunch or checking in to update her
on their latest career news.
At age 79, Fran remains 100% cancer
free. She is finally "mostly" retired and travels the
globe with her pals. Recently she returned from a tour of the
British Isles with our uncle where they hopped from country to
country meeting friends and family. This weekend she is at a wedding
in Mammoth, California. She and her pals thought they would make a
five day road trip out of it, Fran is doing the driving. I am
recent pictures of Fran from her three week South American Cruise
where she sailed to Tierra del Fuego and walked with the
Many of the women from both my
mother and father's side of family have been diagnosed with cancer.
So far my sister, my cousins and I are all cancer free. We are very
serious about wellness care. We get annual check ups, including a
mammography as well as any other tests that are indicated. My
sister, my cousin, and I have had multiple needle biopsies; so far
results have been negative. I did have a stereo tactic biopsy at 39
for a spot on my left breast that turned out to be only a liquid
filled cyst that popped from the needle puncture. The scar from the
biopsy has long since disappeared. The procedure was minimal and the
peace of mind was well worth it.
From Fran comes the inspiration to
live your life to the fullest, be brave, be kind, teach others your
skills and share your personal experiences. She is quite the little
Toughie Chick our mom. We are very lucky to have her!