Breast Cancer Resource Center Savannah, GA USA

Joyce Williams

(Survivor)

I was diagnosed in July 2017 at the age of 36 with invasive ductile carcinoma.  It was a complete and utter surprise because (well you know the ‘ole cliché) it’d never happen to me.  I didn’t have any family history, never felt a lump, wasn’t sick, and was still years away from the recommended screenings.  I was at ‘average risk.’  As it turns out, I was lucky.  I had done genetic testing the year prior because of a family history for colon cancer.  Yet, I was negative for that gene and (surprise, surprise) positive for BRCA2.  I accidentally stumbled upon this gene. We began with increased surveillance, alternating every six months with mammograms and MRIs.  My mammogram missed it; and only an MRI done six months later finally revealed the masses.  Yep.  Plural.  I had three.  I actually had cancer…breast cancer.  In the following ten months, I endured a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, reconstruction, radiation, and a hysterectomy.  I’m not going to lie: it was rough!  However, I spoke with several women who had survived, who had made it to the other side of their own storms, and together they became my lighthouses in the distance.  I adopted the imagery of a lighthouse radiating its sweet sound of hope across the unruly sea, calming me, and softly whispering: “you are not alone.”  My college sorority sister, V, introduced me to Beth (a childhood friend of hers who had been recently diagnosed and was fighting alongside me).  Beth and I leaned on one another throughout our trying journeys; and in April 2018, Beth asked if I’d participate in the San Diego 3 Day with her.  We’d walk 60 miles and raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.  I shared my lighthouse imagery, created our logo and hashtag, and together we named our campaign and set out on a mission to continue to pave the way for the next round of warriors.  And so, Keepers of the Flame was born.  V joined us and so did my sister-in-law (Sarah).  Not only have we raised funds for the 3Day, but we’ve continued to push forward with education/awareness, working with local therapists to start group classes for fighters/survivors, hosting an annual swimathon, working with local Girl Scout troops, and partnering with local small business owners to raise funds for women in need.