Christine Franklin, 58, of Vacaville, doesn’t consider herself a cancer survivor. She’s someone learning to live with cancer and fighting for her life every step of the way.
Diagnosed in April 2006 with Stage IV of an aggressive breast cancer called HER2-positive, she now has cancer in her lymph nodes and liver.
“I thought the last thing I would ever get was breast cancer,” Franklin says. “I had gone two years without a mammogram and frankly I was more worried about the risk of colon cancer.”
Statistically, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in California women. Approximately 25 percent of breast cancer patients have tumors that are classified as HER2-positive. HER2 stands for Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2—a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. This form of breast cancer is more aggressive than other types and less responsive to hormone treatment. HER2 breast cancer is also more likely to reoccur.
Franklin’s cancer journey has included two mastectomies and a lymphectomy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Her first remission lasted a year. When the cancer came back, the charismatic sales representative for O.C. Tanner Co. left her job to undergo treatment. She began a regime of oral chemotherapy, changing drugs as each one lost its effectiveness. For a second, brief time, she was in remission, but, as she says, “Cancer is a very smart disease. I call it a chameleon, because it always figures out how to beat the medicine.”
Franklin is currently undergoing IV chemotherapy at NorthBay Cancer Center in Fairfield, where she has been under the care of medical oncologist Brian Vikstrom, M.D., since her diagnosis. “The infusion center is like visiting family,” Franklin says. “This is my team, and I know they’re giving me the best possible care.”
To show support for her “personal hospital,” Franklin joined the NorthBay Guild. She now volunteers once a week at VacaValley Hospital. She’s active with family and friends and determined to live large every day.
“I’m going to live my life to the fullest as long as I can,” she says. “Not exist, but live. You always hope that for the extra six months you’re given something new will be discovered to prolong your life.”
Franklin’s advice to other women is to be aware of their bodies. “Educate yourselves and don’t take your body for granted. I did, and now I’m fighting a battle that I know the cancer will win. But until then I’m fighting for my life every step of the way.”