Meet the Models: Francine Coughlin

Francine Coughlin is the definition of a go-getter. She runs her own nonprofit dog rescue organization, is a mother to a nine year old and supports her husband who is a firefighter/EMT. Just before her 40th birthday, feeling healthier than ever, she got her first mammogram. It would reveal stage 1 breast cancer: “there was no history of cancer in my family so it was extremely shocking.”

Navigating the process of diagnosis and treatment proved difficult, but Francine armed herself with all possible supports: her parents (by chance!) had moved in next door six months prior to diagnosis; her community provided a meal train for six months; her team took over the responsibilities of her business immediately, and, chiefly, she had a personal therapist for herself, her daughter and her husband. Of all of the support she received Francine says, “it was life changing for me to just stop and accept help for the first time in my life.”

Maintaining normalcy remained one of Francine’s main goals. She was open and honest with her daughter every step of the way saying, “it helped that everything wasn’t thrown at her all at once- she was there for every step.” As a family who travels frequently, Francine has made it to nearly every trip the family had planned. Since completing treatment in December, she has prioritized “the pleasure center,” which is planning trips with those she loves: “since treatment, how I spend my time and how I react to things are totally different.”

Reflecting on the past year, Francine remains refreshingly honest about how she approached this journey, even about things like hair loss: “I spent a lot of money on a wig and I never used it, nor did I do head coverings ever. I felt comfortable being bald- it took some time, but I felt really comfortable. That includes school pick ups and being around kids. I wanted to normalize being in treatment, and didn’t feel like I had to make others feel comfortable.”

Living in her truth created an entire network she never knew she had. Francine says she was blown away at the amount of people who came forward in her life who were either breast cancer survivors, or going through treatment. Alternatively, she also shifted away from people: “please don’t ask how I am feeling in a sh** check-the-box text message.”

In the end, her reflection is simple, yet powerful: “yes breast cancer happened to me and yes it was a huge portion of my life, but will it define me forever? No. I will however, forever be telling women to get their mammograms.”