Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December's Spotlight - Francine Brokaw

I'm excited about this interview!  I was contacted by a cancer survivor, and entertainment journalist, Francine Brokaw, about doing an interview for our blog recently.  Francine's new book has been released, which makes it a good time to tell you a bit about her.  She says that her book, Beyond the Red Carpet: The World of Entertainment Journalists, has helped her to reach out to cancer survivors - it is a tool for her to share how her life's path changed after her diagnosis.  From all of the reviews I've read, it looks to be a fun, entertaining read - maybe something you can sit down with to get away from all the drama in your own life! :)  I'm excited to get my copy!  Click on the title above to link to Amazon, where you can purchased it. :)

Here is our interview...
Lifting Hearts: "What were you diagnosed with, and what treatments did you have?  Who were your doctors?"

Francine: "I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 38. It happened during a routine mammogram. I never gave it a second thought when the clinic called and asked me to return to retake the x-rays. They said there was a problem with the machine. After the second mammogram, I was told to have a biopsy, which was ultimately a lumpectomy. The margins were wide so my surgeon (Dr. Douglas Morrow) suggested a bi-lateral mastectomy. I had known him for several years, and he felt that, given my situation and knowing me the way he did, it was the course of treatment he would suggest. I then followed up with my oncologist (Dr. Robert Decker), who I continue to see every six months. I did not require any chemo or radiation. Dr. Decker is keeping a close watch on me, and I feel confident that should anything happen, he will be right there to catch it. Yay, Dr. Bob!"

Lifting Hearts: "How did your cancer diagnosis affect your family and friends?"

Francine: "I think the main thing is that they are all more conscientious about getting mammograms since I was the first person in our immediate family to have cancer. In the beginning, my main thoughts were of my two young nieces since my having breast cancer increases their odds of developing it in their lives. So far, everyone is fine."

Lifting Hearts: "What was the hardest thing you had to go through during your cancer journey?  What helped get you through it?"

Francine: "The hardest thing was (and is still) knowing that I cannot do everything I did before my diagnosis due to the lymphedema that occurred from the removal of lymph nodes under my right arm. Since I am right-handed, I was told I could never play tennis again. That really upset me since tennis was a big part of my life for a long time. But, how I got over that hurdle was by finding something that was positive to do with myself and kept me occupied. That “something” was entertainment writing. I didn’t know anything about it, but I dug right in, and I am proud to say that I have made a successful career for myself. Had I not been thrust in a different direction due to my experience with breast cancer, I can honestly say that I would never have considered pursuing this path. Another way I got through the difficult times was with a support website for women who had gone through a similar experience with breast cancer. I joined rather cautiously in the beginning but soon discovered that these women were there to lend a shoulder and encouragement whenever I needed it. And after all these years, I am happy to count them as my friends, even though I have only met a few members face to face. We have been through a lot together, and that has strengthened our relationship. We are friends."

Lifting Hearts:  "How did your cancer diagnosis change your life?"

Francine: "If I had not experienced cancer, I would never in my wildest dreams have considered entertainment journalism as a profession. I was into politics and writing but not entertainment-related stories. The experience of cancer led me in a new direction, and it turned out beautifully. In September, I published my first book called Beyond the Red Carpet: The World of Entertainment Journalists, in which I (and 30 of my colleagues) share stories and experiences regarding what it’s like to work in this field. I am enjoying getting the word out about entertainment journalism, but the book has become much more than that for me. It is also a vessel for me to help cancer survivors. It demonstrates how the experience of being diagnosed with cancer can be the motivation to reach for new things and travel new roads."

Lifting Hearts: "What did you learn during your cancer journey?"

Francine:  "I think the main thing I learned is that life can change in an instant. That is something we all need to keep in mind. Tell the people you love that you love them. Take some chances. Experience new things. Enjoy something (a sunset, a song, a book, your dog, etc.) and laugh at something at least once during the day - every day."

Lifting Hearts: "What have you changed as a result of your cancer diagnosis?"

Francine: "I have changed the way I dress. LOL. With my reconstruction, I don’t need or even own a bra, so I don’t worry about bra straps. I do have to think about my scars when I try on certain clothes. My surgery scars are long, and I am self-conscious about them showing. But, on the flipside, I love not having straps on my shoulder. What a relief!"

Lifting Hearts: "Do you have a favorite book or quote or song that became meaningful to you during your cancer journey?"

Francine: "Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don’t take it serious. It’s too mysterious."

Lifting Hearts: "What advice would you give to a woman who is newly diagnosed with breast cancer?"

Francine:  "Breast cancer doesn’t mean a death sentence. Stay positive. Find people you trust and who you can be with without being mired in the whole cancer aspect of life. Maybe you can try something different like I did. Breast cancer propelled me into rebooting my life, and I have done rather well with my career, if I do say so myself."

Lifting Hearts: "What advice would you give to friends and family of a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient?"

Francine: "Listen to your loved ones. If they want to talk about cancer, then let them talk about it, but don’t bring it up. Stay positive and upbeat. They will take their cue from you, even though they might be completely depressed. Play happy music and watch fun movies. Stay away from stories with cancer or death. Keep it upbeat."

Lifting Hearts: "Finish this sentence… “I am a…

Francine: "Survivor. I know that’s a clich√©, but it’s true."

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