It takes a special person to turn cancer into something inspiring, but that’s exactly what Fran did. With the help of her “melahomies”, knitting, and some crazy socks, Fran took a sad diagnosis and turned it into a mantra (borrowed from the band Frightened Rabbit): “Making tiny changes to Earth.”
Fran found ways to cope with and even make something meaningful out of her cancer diagnosis. First were her pals the melahomies. “A cancer diagnosis can be a very solitary and isolating experience,” says Fran. “I have always been a very social woman, but after being diagnosed, I became very antisocial.” Often misunderstood as a disease with a quick fix, she needed people that understood the “strange and unique beast” that is melanoma.
Treatments left her with the jitters, anxiety, and left over energy from not being able to work as a teacher. Instead of letting this get her down, she eased her fidgety hands and mind with knitting and even opened her own Etsy store. She gives proceeds from her store, Knitting for Cancer, to melanoma research at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Cystinosis Foundation.
After the treatments were over, she found herself with a new challenge: lymphedema. This condition is commonly caused by removal of lymph nodes and causes intense pain and swelling. Because of this, Fran has to wear a custom made compression garment that goes all the way up her thigh. “It is designed to decrease swelling and aid in pain, which it does, but it is incredibly cumbersome, hot and can be horribly uncomfortable,” she says. On top of all that, it is a constant reminder of her condition and that she is different.
Pre-cancer, Fran preferred bare feet to socks. With her garment constantly on one leg, though, she felt the need to wear a sock on the other. After months of this mismatched footwear, Fran was overjoyed to simply wear a PAIR of socks. She quickly realized, though, that she was in need of a major sock upgrade. The socks she had caused more pain and swelling: “Finding a pair just one pair of socks I could wear without exacerbating my condition, became a mission for me. And then I found Sock It to Me and viola, mission accomplished!”
Fran has a message for all those currently battling cancer or its effects. “My best advice would be to find something, anything, that brings you joy and keep that something very close,” says Fran. “Your socks provide SO much comfort and goodness for me. They allow me to feel normal. They allow me to experience pain free time. They allow me to EXPRESS MYSELF! They create meaningful conversations between me and my students (finally back in the classroom!). They prompt stories about dancing sasquatch or donut eating raccoons between me and my son. They give me a piece of me back…a piece, not so long ago, I wasn’t sure I would get back.”
Thanks Fran! For being super, for being a fan, and for being an inspiration!
To check out Fran’s handiwork, visit her Etsy store: Knitting for Cancer.