Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
Breast cancer survivors' stories
Breast cancer is the leading cancer affecting Jamaican women, and early detection has been proven to save lives. It is with this in mind that Eugenie Ffrench, a 47-year-old survivor of the disease, decided to share the story of her battle.
Ffrench was 38 years old when she felt something long and thick along the top of her breast. Immediately she began worrying as memories of her two aunts who died from breast cancer came rushing back.
"I remembered the relatives I had who died and it raised an alarm for me. These two aunts died in their 30s from breast cancer and it was devastating for me," Ffrench told The Gleaner. "I was 18 years old when my favourite aunt died and it really affected me, so immediately I started to wonder if the same thing was happening to me."
Ffrench had to endure a horrid four months of worrying before she got the results, only to discover that what she feared the most was in fact a reality.
"I remember the Friday when I went to collect the results. The doctor began asking me if I was married and if my relationship was a good one. When he started taking me down that route, I realised that it was not going to be a good report. He said it was cancer. I was like, 'Lord, this is not happening, it can't be', because I was already going through so many challenges in life," Ffrench lamented.
"I was in my final year at the Jamaica Theological Seminary; I was completing my degree and looking forward to graduation; all of that started to look dim."
She added: "I remember walking from the hospital and thinking about everything; I kept it to myself and did not want to tell my husband or children because I felt it was my burden. I just wanted to fight it on my own."
Encouraged to share
However, Ffrench was encouraged by her pastor to tell her family about two weeks later. Her two children took it very hard though, as they began to fear the worst.
"I remember my little girl coming to me crying and telling me that her friend told her that cancer kills people. She was only nine years old. Even my son began to cry at school; it was not a good time," she said.
"The diagnosis was really a blow to me but I planned to get on with my life. My faith in God kicked in and I decided that this was an all-out war for my life and for my success. I decided that, you know what, Satan was not going to take my future from me, so I started to declare that I will live," she added.
Ffrench had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy a few weeks later and with the aid of those procedures, the cancer was finally defeated. She was so relieved as if a fresh breath of life had been blown into her body. She went on to complete her degree and graduated the same year.
Ffrench advised young women to be strong and conduct tests on a regular basis as early detection could be the difference between life and death.
"I would advise them to know their bodies, take off their clothes and look at themselves in the mirror and note any changes to their breasts. Do not allow yourselves to be stressed out either as stress is a normal occurrence. I have learnt that the things you worry about will always remain. You just have to find a way to deal with the problem and tackle it," she said.