By Sadef Ali Kully
When 60-year old Fran Holzman from Kew Gardens was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer in 2007, it was not a complete surprise.
Holzman’s mother and grandmother were both diagnosed with breast cancer and by the time she had reached her 40s, mammograms had become an annual part of her health check-up.
Holzman has a round face with bright pink cheeks surrounded by bright red orange curls set in a short hair cut.
“I kind of knew in my heart of hearts,” Holzman, now 68, said when her doctors suggested that she do a biopsy for a tiny lump in one of her breasts.
“It was so small, not everyone would have picked up on it,” she said. “Later on when the cancer was gone, the doctor told me to thank my radiologist.”
Holzman was diagnosed with Stage I estrogen positive breast cancer, one of the more common forms of breast cancer, which over 200,000 women are diagnosed with every year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Her breast cancer treatment included a lumpectomy and 30 days of radiation for five days a week.
“It was tiring, but I had a wonderful boss who knew I was a hard worker,” said Holzman, who was working for a competitive advertising firm in Manhattan.
She was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Rockaways. After her diagnosis, she became involved with volunteering at the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer-Queens Chapter annual walk, which takes place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“I feel guilty and incredibly lucky at the same time. I was in Stage I. Early detection saved me,” Holzman said. “Sometimes I see these young women in their 20s or 30s and they are really battling such an awful disease at such a young age.”
After the doctors declared her in remission, which means there is no sign of any cancer cells left in the body, Holzman became more involved in the American Cancer Society office in Kew Gardens.
“I was a caretaker for my mother when she was diagnosed and I remember being angry,” she said. “The hardest part of being a caretaker is seeing the effects of the chemo—I would wash her hair in the sink and it would come out in chunks. I was so angry.”
Although, Holzman did not have chemotherapy, she experienced the side effects from radiation such as broken skin in and around the breasts, hot flashes, mood swings and fatigue.
“No one told me about the part when I was never going to see my waistline again,” she said about the weight gain from preventative medication.
Today, Holzman volunteers to help women pick out their wigs when they are losing their hair due to chemotherapy and helps out in the survivor tent on the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
“I only have one new year resolution—it’s the same every year,” Holzman said. “To laugh more.”
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull