It all started one day in June when Frances Adarkwah wasn’t quite feeling like herself. Experiencing chest pains and not being able to walk up a few stairs without being out of breath, Adarkwah’s daughter decided to drive her to the hospital. After the doctors ran some blood tests and X-rays, she didn’t expect to find out what she did, especially after seeing her primary care physician earlier in the year and receiving a clean bill of health.
Adarkwah had thyroid cancer.
To make matters worse, the former Randolph woman wasn’t properly told the news at the hospital due to one physician assuming that another physician already had broken the news to her.
“I can't tell you how I felt," said Adarkwah, who lived in Randolph for nearly 24 years. "I couldn’t make out anything after she told me it was cancer. I kept asking the doctor, ‘what did you say?’ At first I was very mad because I didn’t know why this was happening to me. I don't smoke. I don't drink. I’ve never even had a cigarette in my life. How the heck did I get this cancer?”
That devastating diagnosis created a panic in Adarkwah’s life. Her grandfather had bone cancer, her grandmother had cancer in her liver, her aunt had lung cancer, and another aunt also had thyroid cancer too. She thought about what would happen to her two daughters, aged 19 and 22.
“I decided that I had to fight,” she said.
Adarkwah shared with one of her friends that she was going to be cancer free by her birthday. And she was. After going through her radiation treatment, she found out the day before her birthday that she was cancer free, three short months after her original diagnosis.
Added Adarkwah, “That was a miracle. It brings tears to my eyes.”
Adarkwah decided that she wanted to have fun and enjoy her life, so to celebrate her victory, she recently had a big bash in honor of her 55th birthday, as well as celebrating being a cancer survivor. The party, held at Sachem Farm in East Bridgewater, brought together more than 50 people. Members of the Girl Scouts, now grown, who were in the same troop as Adarkwah’s daughters, where Adarkwah herself volunteered for 13 years, came to share in the celebration. Miss Taunton, Brittany Churchill, who is close friends with one of Adarkwah’s daughters, donated her time at the party, taking pictures, doing a meet and greet, and also blessing the food. State Sen. Walter Timilty, who couldn’t attend the party, sent a heartfelt video message that was shown at the gathering. Touched by her story, the DJ, caterers, photographer and other vendors donated their services at Adarkwah’s party.
“It was nice to get all the support,” Adarkwah said. “I was overwhelmed at how many people just came and volunteered. These were some of the people that through this whole process were praying for me and sending me well wishes.”
Oddly enough through this ordeal, Adarkwah has met others along the way who also had cancer, or were somehow affected by it. When she told an East Bridgewater selectman the reason she was booking the room for her party, he shared that he also had cancer. He mentioned a cancer program in East Bridgewater, asking her to share her story with the group. A pastor at a Randolph church reached out to Adarkwah and told her that she has some parishioners who also have cancer and invited her to visit the church and speak. Adarkwah plans to speak at both venues.
Cancer impacted Adarkwah's life from another source. The husband of the owner of the Randolph home that Adarkwah rented for nearly two decades died from cancer. That forced the owner to sell the house, and Adarkwah’s family to move to Brockton.
An active volunteer in Randolph and other areas, Adarkwah has volunteered as an election poll secretary and duty ward for local elections, at the Randolph Food Pantry, Project Bread Walk for Hunger, the Special Olympics, the Boston Light the Night Leukemia Walk, and the Cancer Walk for childhood cancer. Adarkwah remarks, “Who knew I would be a victim of the same deadly disease that I was walking to fight against.”
Adarkwah has decided to use her experience as a way to help others by starting a support group. Still in the planning process, Adarkwah wants to create a group or a hotline to try and help as many people as she can.
“I think I was put in this predicament to show everybody what I went through and hopefully help them,” Adarkwah said. “When I went through it I didn't know anything. Where to go? Who to talk to? People pray for you and all that, but they don't know what you're going through. Maybe I went through this so I can go out and help somebody else with that problem, so they won’t have a hard time like I did.”