Marcy Frantz's Survivor Story
You could say I was predestined to be warrior. After all, my name, Marcy, means “war-like.”
However, my journey through breast cancer was not necessarily one of survival, but rather one of reconnecting with myself.
I was diagnosed with stage I triple positive breast cancer on May 29, 2013, nine days after the one-year anniversary of the unexpected death of my wife of 16 years. I was 34.
My diagnosis arose from the instinctive feeling something just didn’t feel right. Lying down on that particular side or my stomach just felt different. I never did feel a lump.
As I embraced my diagnosis and continued to pick up pieces of my shattered heart, I felt a momentary sense of defeat. But, it was only for a second. I remember asking myself “Why is all of this happening to me?”, and then immediately answering myself with “Why not?”
It was at that moment I decided to take these challenges as a compliment. I may have cancer but cancer never had me.
Losing my wife, someone I deeply loved and grew with for over half of my life, felt like I lost part of myself, too. Now knowing I was going to face cancer without her was undoubtedly the most heart-wrenching part of my journey. My treatment consisted of a biopsy, a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection, 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 20 accelerated radiation treatments and Herceptin injections.
And, I refused to let any of them knock me down.
The road wasn’t easy, but I know it could have been much worse. There were many tears; crying for me is an important vessel to letting out the thoughts and feelings that float around as private literature in my spirit. Some of my days are just filled with crying.
Even though I was able to “save” my breasts, there is a physical difference between them that causes a slight interference in my confidence. Shopping for clothing that makes me feel sexier became a challenge. Shirts that revealed cleavage sometimes showed my dimpled biopsy site and scar. And while I’m sure no one really notices it, I know its presence. Shopping for bras was a disappointment because one side fit perfect while the other needed a little more support. Finding AnaOno made such a difference. I am in love with every one of their bras I own, and the passion behind this product makes me feel more empowered as a woman and as a survivor!
Side effects from my treatment linger and while some may be temporary, others could be lifelong. I have always been a healthy and active person who enjoys running, yoga and all things outdoors but these activities after treatment have taught me to be patient with myself; really patient.
I tire more easily. I deal with peripheral neuropathy and healing pain associated with scars and scar tissue. And for someone who loves to run, clumsy, tingly feet literally keep me on my toes.
I’ve battled with food and the decisions surrounding it: Should I eat this? Is this bad for me? I shouldn’t have too much of this or too much of that. I still battle with those thoughts. But, I remind myself I find joy in great food, and I will allow those not-so-healthy-foods to provide me comfort. In moderation, of course.
Cancer recurrence anxiety is something that can take hold of my emotions at will. It’s one of those things life chooses to do through me, keeping me gratefully humble. Like how my life as a young widow and a young survivor creates a perfect storm of self-doubt and a potentially sabotaging thought process for me when it comes to dating. Here I am, with beautiful scars wrapped up in an unfamiliar desire to share my vulnerability while trying to figure out the dating scene in my thirties. I’m definitely a work in progress. Obviously I maintain my sense of humor within this dating territory because even though there are days where all I do is cry, there are also days when all I can do is laugh.
Bonds have been found and forged through my breast cancer journey and this authenticity of family and friendships remains unbroken. Their unwavering support is priceless. I also found a young breast cancer survivor group, Carolina Breast Friends, here in Charlotte that provides a heartfelt connection. The strength and courage of these women is truly inspiring. I believe it is important to maintain a sisterhood of shared experiences and comfort through similar pain reminds us all to breathe. Some days that’s all we need to do; just breathe.
So my survivor skills - or my “war-like” skills if you prefer - have been honed and sharpened, but through all of this I have also found a new artistic avenue and a restored spirit. I collage random items like tables, bowls, frames and cigar boxes and have found therapy in its process. My art reflects the dynamic layers of my life being infused with healing energy. My diagnosis was the catalyst for a grand spiritual reconnection with myself. And it has become a connection I continue to nourish daily.
I’ve become a Reiki practitioner. After receiving it as part of my therapy before undergoing surgery, and knowing its benefits, I knew it was something I had to do. I have dreams to remember and fulfill, and who knows, I may get all this private literature out for the world to read one day.
Cancer shoved me out of my familiar place within my own grief, and into a spotlight, allowing my strength to be both challenged and celebrated for the second time. It also realigned me to my purpose in life, and I feel as though I belong to myself again. Because I now understand the capacity of my fortitude and resilience.
There is too much war in the words of my silence, so I will continue to share my story by walking in my vulnerable space, nurturing a stronger side of myself and hoping to inspire those open to receive it.
I will love my scars and let them serve as a reminder of my resilience in the beautiful kaleidoscope of life. And I will continue to live inside my strength.
Marcy continues to practice Reiki, self-love and a universally-spiritual life in Charlotte, NC. She walked in AnaOno's first lingerie runway show in May, 2015.