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The year was 1998.
Fran Carrico was just about to graduate with a bachelor’s from Bellarmine College (now university) when she found out news that would completely change her life: she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.
She had gone to the doctor to find out about a knot on the left side of her chest. About a month later, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She was only 21 at the time, though, and the intricate details of what she had just been told didn’t quite sink in, according to Carrico.
“I don’t think you can truly grasp the complexity that is involved with something like that at that age,” Carrico said. “You think you’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”
Carrico admits that if the circumstances had been different, she’s not sure what would have happened.
Doctors told her that 20 years before her diagnosis, they couldn’t have helped her.
She says that if she found out today, now married with children, she would have had much more to worry about.
Even though the situation in front of her was incredibly difficult, Carrico chose to look at the positives.
And the doctors said there was hope of overcoming the deadly disease, on one condition.
“The doctors told me — they were just great doctors — they said, ‘We go for the cure now,’” Carrico said.
Carrico would undergo five months of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.
During this time, the most encouraging thing for her — throughout the process — was the support she received from Washington County.
“This community was excellent for me,” Carrico said. “There’s not a day I didn’t get a card in the mailbox. Some of the people I didn’t even know. It was an uplifting thing for me.”
After the grueling six-plus months of treatments, Carrico eventually came back with clean reports.
And 10 years later, she was completely released from her doctor’s care, now only having to get a mammogram and thyroid test each year.
Unsurprisingly, the entire experience changed Carrico’s view of the world.
“It makes you look at life differently; you don’t fret as much, and you’re thankful for what you have,” Carrico said. “You start living each day to its fullest. You start enjoying yourself and start surrounding yourself with good people, good friends … It just completely changes your outlook on life.”
Carrico had two messages for those recently diagnosed with cancer: Look to your community and be grateful for how far the research has come.
“There are so many people out there that will support you. Research has come so far. Just amazing the progress that we have actually made.”
According to her, one of the best ways the community embraces cancer survivors is Washington County’s annual Relay for Life event, something she started going to soon after she found out her diagnosis.
“I still try to make sure I go every year and participate in the survivors’ walk,” Carrico said. “I hope new survivors come out to the rally Saturday night. Just look at the survivors’ lap and you’ll say, ‘Wow! They had cancer. I didn’t know that.’ Hopefully that will make them feel like I can do this, too.”