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‘All in God’s Hands’

Francis shares her lung cancer journey

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Over the summer of 2018 Kaye Francis lost 50 pounds, an early warning sign, she would later find out, of cancer.

Francis started having trouble breathing in August of 2018 and paired with a cough, the 63-year-old assumed she had come down with a case of pneumonia. However, when she went to the doctor, they ran a series of tests and on Oct. 31, 2018, Francis, the longtime smoker, was told she had stage 4 lung cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, causing about 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. The CDC also said that those who smoke are 15-30 times more likely to get diagnosed with lung cancer.

Francis quit smoking after being diagnosed in 2018.

She started chemotherapy Dec. 16, 2018 — her 60th birthday,

Four months later she finished the hard hitting chemo and started an immunotherapy called Keytruda, which detects and fights cancer cells in the body. Francis will continue this immunotherapy once every three weeks for the rest of her life to ensure the cancer doesn’t come back.

Almost three years after her diagnosis, Francis is cancer free.

During treatment Francis, a devout Christian, turned to Psalms 123, which reads in part, “I lift up my eyes to you, to whose throne is in heaven.”

“From the very beginning it has all been in God’s hands. I really was at peace with it all,” Francis said. “Of course when you’re facing death, it’s not all that peaceful, but I knew I was going to be taken care of. So I was at peace.”

As she was in the throes of her chemo treatment, Francis had yet another health issue to endure. In July of 2020, she had a heart attack. After three stents and time in the hospital, Francis recovered and was able to focus on fighting her cancer.

“No matter how many bumps in the road there are, you have to just keep that positive attitude,” Francis said about her health setback.

The health challenges have also caused financial hardship, Francis said. One of her daughters set up a GoFundMe fundraiser page to help with her bills, which Francis said she was grateful for.

One way to help give back to cancer survivors and caregivers is at Saturday’s annual Relay for Life of Montgomery County. The event will take place at the National Guard Armory, from noon to 9 p.m.

Francis is excited for the event, which will be held in person for the first time since 2019.

“It’s important for us to be able to fellowship with one another and to share each other’s stories. I think it’s also very important for caregivers to get encouragement from other caregivers,” Francis said.

She also noted the importance of donating to Relay for Life to support the research they do. In fact the week after she was diagnosed, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new chemotherapy treatment that Francis fit the protocol for. The new chemo she attributed to helping shrink the tumor on her lung, and ultimately beat her cancer.

Mary Lynn Robertson, senior development manager at the American Cancer Society, also emphasized the importance of events like Relay for Life.

“We continue to need to have the funding for research and for education that the American Cancer Society offers,” Roberts said.

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