Breast Cancer Resource Center Savannah, GA USA

About


Mission:
To shine light into the darkness, empowering breast cancer patients to weather breast cancer both physically and emotionally.

The Initial Spark:

At the launch of a treacherous journey and during the midst of the storm itself, a lighthouse off in the distance whispers its sweet sound of hope. Survivors on the shores ahead are beacons of brightness; their stories and experiences radiate light and remind us that we can weather our storms.  We are not alone in our fight against breast cancer, nor are we alone in our quest for a cure.

Find the courage, connection, and support that you need in order to find your own figurative lighthouse… to live your best life possible, despite this disease. Together we will weather it; together we will pave the way so that each newly diagnosed woman has it even easier. The more lighthouses we see out there, the stronger the message is to women: “You are not alone.” 

A History

Joyce T. Williams started Keepers of the Flame® in 2018 after her own battle with breast cancer in 2017.

Joyce was 36 years old at diagnosis. She didn’t have any family history, never felt a lump, wasn’t sick, and was still years away from the recommended screenings. She was at “average risk.” However, in 2016 Joyce had done genetic testing, prompted from a family history for colon cancer.  It turned out that she was negative for that mutation, yet positive for the BRCA2 mutation. Upon this serendipitous discovery, Joyce began increased surveillance, alternating every six months with mammograms and MRIs.  Her first mammogram missed it; yet her first MRI, six months later, revealed the masses. Plural. She had three.

After being diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma with micromets to the lymph nodes, in a ten-month period, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation, and a hysterectomy. Throughout her treatments, Joyce remained candid about both the physical and emotional hurtles endured. She’d spoken with other women who’d made it through their storms, and together they became her lighthouses in the distance. Joyce recalls the moment after her mastectomy when the glue and stitches were still fresh, when she faced her scars in the mirror for the first time and broke down.  That’s when she saw a lighthouse charm on her bracelet which reminded her of all those brave fighters who’d walked the path before her.  If they could do it, then so could she. That’s the moment when Joyce adopted the imagery of a lighthouse radiating its sweet sound of hope across the unruly sea. It calmed her and softly whispered, “You are not alone. Together we will weather it.”

In 2018, Joyce participated in a walk with other survivors and supporters. Their team’s name became Keepers of the Flame, inspired by Miranda Lambert’s song, ‘Keeper of the Flame’ since the metaphors in Lambert’s song took on a whole new meaning for Joyce with lighthouses on the mind, especially since lighthouses were once lit with real flames. Lambert sings, “I’m bent, but I’m not broken. I’m stronger than I feel.”  She continues, “I’m not doing it for the glory, But for those little pilot lights waiting to ignite Like fireflies in the rain.” Joyce was determined to help those “fireflies in the rain” weather their storms physically and emotionally, so she decided to take Keepers of the Flame® even further.

Joyce created the website, togetherweweather.org, for Keepers of the Flame® in efforts to connect patients with education, resources, and support. In 2019, Keepers of the Flame® received its registered trademark. All the while, Joyce continued to advocate and support breast cancer patients through various avenues. KotF encouraged local therapists to design a curriculum to support breast cancer patients, partnered with a local yoga studio to bring free classes to patients, and created a podcast where key professionals were interviewed. Some of these professionals include a breast surgeon, NP medical oncology, radiation oncologist, plastic surgeon, therapists, lymphedema experts, pathologists, survivors, nipple tattoo artists, etc. Later Joyce and KotF created a free research-based Resilience Curriculum, followed by providing peer-counseling.

After speaking with hundreds of women, Joyce realized that this emotional piece to treatment was common point, yet few discussed it openly because it hasn’t yet been normalized.  Consequently, many breast cancer patients wrongfully assumed that they were the only ones. This realization prompted Joyce to encourage physicians to help normalize it and to offer referrals to counseling.  As part of that endeavor, in 2021, Joyce partnered with Dr. Elisabeth Counselman Carpenter, LCSW (author, clinician, professor, and researcher by trade at Adelphi University) to conduct a formal investigation on Breast Cancer Patient Preferences on Physician Driven Referrals to Therapy.

In April 2022, Joyce began the steps to incorporate Keepers of the Flame® and to file for nonprofit in efforts to continue the mission, to shine light into the darkness, empowering breast cancer patients to weather breast cancer both physically and emotionally. Carrie Mott (survivor), Jen Davis (NP – women’s health; survivorship and high-risk program coordinator), Ashley Moore (LMFT), and Vanessa Brink (NP – medical oncology) agreed to serve as Keepers of the Flame® Foundation, Inc’s first Board of Directors.

Before the Storm

Walking into the path of uncertainty and trying to scrape up some courage.

During the Storm

Broken and stripped of everything that I’d once been so certain of.

After the Storm

Grounded and more at peace; learning to embrace the new normal.

Photographs by Mackensey Alexander.