When Fran Mercolino was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was understandably terrified. Sadly, she’d witnessed firsthand the devastating nature of this awful disease: After a 10-year battle, Fran’s daughter Dianne lost her battle with breast cancer in 2004.

“Dianne was the bravest person I ever knew," says Fran. "She had every treatment in creation. She said, 'Every day I'm alive, my girls are one year older.' "

Fran was determined to follow Dianne’s example, and she educated herself about treatment options. After her two lumpectomies, she required radiation, so she did some research and told her radiologist to veer the standard protocol, which would have her lying on her back.

“I insisted on being on my side and stomach, so my heart and lungs were not radiated,” Fran explains. “They told me I was too short to do it that way, so I said, ‘Tape me to the machine!’ And that’s what they did each time.”

Fran also pushed for the creation of a support group specifically for breast cancer patients with lymphedema, a buildup of lymph fluid that afflicts some patients. "We learn from each other and can speak freely. The women in my group are amazing warriors!"

Another warrior is Fran's husband Joe, who was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after Fran. "His faith helped me through the bad times," she says.

Both Fran and Joe feel compelled to support others dealing with breast cancer to honor their daughter’s bravery. “Dianne's three daughters, now grown, are all in professions dedicated to helping others, including nursing and teaching,” says Fran proudly. "That is her legacy."


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