A Woodbury teen was keynote speaker at the Survivor’s Breakfast at the Connecticut Race in the Park in New Britain this past Saturday.
Lindiana Frangu, 15, who is the current Miss Bristol’s Outstanding Teen, shared her story at the breakfast, which is part of the fundraising activities for the Connecticut Breast Cancer Health Initiative event.
The Connecticut Race in the Park takes place annually each May on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Thousands of people attended festivities and events while honoring breast cancer survivors and raising funds to help fight breast cancer.
Lindiana Frangu’s story, however, starts with her mother Julie’s story.
Julie Frangu is a breast cancer survivor.
Julie, a former Waterbury resident, said breast cancer was her body adding insult to injury. She had already beaten ovarian cancer.
During a follow-up examination, Julie explained, the doctor discovered she had breast cancer.
With the diagnosis, Julie said she thought the worst. “Why me?” she told herself. “How could it happen?”
According to the initiative, 268,600 American women will be diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2019. The initiative said there will be an estimated 3,490 new cases of breast cancer in Connecticut women in 2019.
Once she had the prognosis, Julie said her thoughts immediately turned to her children, Lindiana, her son Azem, and her youngest daughter Flora.
“What’s going to happen to them,” said Julie Frangu. “Who’s going to take care of them?
“First, it’s the kids, then it’s you, then it’s the husband, and then family,” said Julie. “What do you tell them?”
[JUMP]Julie Frangu said her husband was with her for the checkup, so he knew. But <t1>she held off telling the children because she was worried about upsetting them. She opted to keep her breast cancer a secret. “How do you tell a kid right away and tell them you have cancer? I just didn’t have the guts to do it,” she said.
But there also was a cultural dimension to being tight-lipped, said Julie Frangu.
“Being Albanian, you don’t tell stuff like that,” said Julie Frangu. “You just keep it a secret.”
“You’re raised, you don’t tell … Women don’t get sick,” said Julie Frangu. “It’s embarrassing to tell back home.”
Julie Frangu said the turning point came when she was tired all the time, her hair began falling out and her appearance changed. The children were asking questions by that time, she said.
Julie finally broke the news to her children.
“I was just really confused and really sad,” said Lindiana Frangu, recalling what she felt when her mother said she had breast cancer. She was worried that her mother was going to die, she said.
Even before her mother told her about the breast cancer, Lindiana Frangu, now a student at Nonnewaug High School, said she had an inkling something was wrong. “W<t$>hy is she always sick?” she asked herself. She also did some research on the internet trying to find out for herself what was wrong with her mother. She said it probably wasn’t a good idea because she became more scared.
But knowing the reality of the situation was a comfort in a way, Lindiana said. She now knew for certain what was happening. And as the eldest child, she knew she could pull her siblings aside and help them understand.
“We started to get more together and drew this strength as a family,” Lindiana said about the time after her mother shared her diagnosis. “We realized she wasn’t going to die and she could get through this.”
Once her mother started to get better, Lindiana said she decided she would begin to work to fight breast cancer and instill awareness in other families. She convinced her own family to take part in a fundraising walk for breast cancer research. Even though Julie had just returned from surgery, she participated as well.
“It was raining,” said Lindiana of the day her family stepped off in their first breast cancer walk. By participating, she said, “It showed how strong our family had become in this rough time.”
At the Survivor’s Breakfast on May 11, Lindiana shared her and her mother’s story. She will talk about how she is taking steps to help the children of women with breast cancer by creating a coloring book that will make it easier for young family members to understand what is happening.
Ultimately, said Lindiana, she wants the adults in the room at the Survivor’s Breakfast to understand breast cancer from a teen’s perspective.
Julie Frangu, who is now healthy, said she is proud of her daughter and supports her efforts as a breast cancer activist.
“For her to go out and tell our story and tell other women it’s going to be OK, you can talk about it … I know) that action will help save other lives,” said Julie.
For more information, go to www.ctbhi.org.