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Keepers of the Flame Foundation

April 01, 2024

Keepers of the Flame Foundation

by Joyce T. Williams, Founder and Executive Director

Although we can’t always control the cards we are dealt, we always have a choice in how we respond. Strength and courage don’t just mean avoiding our falls, but also placing our feet beneath us and choosing to move forward inch by inch, again and again. I learned that the hard way.

Background

I remember where I was standing in my biology class as I taught chromosomal inheritance. I paused for a fraction of a second, wondering if I ought to have genetic testing. After all, my family has a strong history of colon cancer, so I questioned whether we had a mutation associated with Lynch syndrome.[KS1]  Never in a million years would I have thought about a BRCA2 mutation being part of MY story; there wasn’t any family history of those cancers. When I opted for genetic testing, BRCA2 seemed more like a bonus test for me, not a critical path. However, although I was negative for the colon cancer mutation, I was positive for a BRCA2 mutation.

My test result hit me like a twirling windstorm, mostly because I was left a bit confused and disoriented…I had been caught off guard. Standing on the coastline, looking out into the vast unknown, the clouds turned dark, and from the depths sprung a tsunami with a wall of water so fierce that it plunged me into the deep. I was in over my head; more disoriented and lost than before and all on the heels of hearing, “You have cancer.” My mutation put me at an increased risk…and sure enough, I had cancer.

I set off on my physical treatment journey, not realizing what an emotional endeavor it would be. The coping skills I’d used my whole life were failing me, and I thought it was just me. After choosing to be vulnerable with my emotional scars and all of the truths they housed, I began to realize that this emotional piece of a diagnosis was a common point. I was not the only one. Like so many others before me, I wanted this emotional understanding to be normalized.

With an incredible team of community leaders, I helped start Keepers of the Flame Foundation.

Keepers of the Flame Foundation

Keepers of the Flame Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit based out of the greater Savannah, GA area, works to empower breast cancer patients to weather breast cancer, both physically and emotionally. It’s important that those undergoing treatment recognize they are not alone, and that together, we weather this storm.

Keepers of the Flame understands that in addition to the physical trials, traveling through a cancer diagnosis affects our emotional well-being. So we are happy to announce that we have partnered with Brother’s Brother Foundation to bring financial assistance to breast cancer patients seeking therapy. Through this program, we support the mental health needs of breast cancer patients.

Additionally, we developed a unique photo gallery to celebrate and shine a light on what true beauty really is. Survivors of varying ethnicities, ages, socioeconomic status and treatments participated in our Empowerment Photography Sessions to reframe what it means to be beautiful. Although breast cancer can happen to any of us, beauty and strength belong to all of us. No matter our shape, size, losses or scars, beauty exists in the ownership of our bodies. The goal of this free digital gallery is to inspire and empower anyone who views it (breast cancer patients and their support communities) to know that they too have beauty, courage and strength within themselves. We are currently investigating the impact of this collection of photos on people, so we invite you to view the gallery (https://togetherweweather.org/reframing-beauty) and complete the short survey.

In addition to hardship support, therapy assistance, transportation and care bags, Keepers of the Flame takes pride in our research with Dr. Elisabeth Counselman-Carpenter from Adelphi University. We are collaborating to investigate the unique perceptions of breast cancer patients’ views on both the psychosocial implications of a diagnosis and mental health support opportunities. Our findings have been published in several peer-reviewed journals and presented at multiple conferences. We’re thrilled to announce our most recent acceptance into Archives of Breast Cancer with our submission entitled “Factors and Coping Styles Related to Breast Cancer Patients’ Preferences About Referrals to Psychotherapy as Part of Their Treatment: A Mixed Methods Study.”

Keepers of the Flame Foundation invites you to visit our website (https://togetherweweather.org/) where you can check out our free resources, including podcast interviews of key professionals, yoga, resilience curriculums and more. You are not alone! Support is there! Together we weather this storm!

Posted in: Genetic Testing , Decision Making , Featured Partner
Tags: Hereditary Cancer , BRCA2 , Reconstruction , Mastectomy , Coping With Risk , Peer Support

1 Comments

June 8, 2024

Teresa Chapman says:
Hoping to make a contact with anyone who may have had a masectomy, without cancer but with the braca gene. I've had no one to talk to for support. My ex fiance is leaving me, so I need a new start. Thank you, Teresa C.

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