Updated: Nov 18, 2019
I met a true inspiration over the phone today named Angela Fougere. This past June, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at thirty-nine years old--a terrifying discovery, to say the least--and yet somehow, she continues to spread love, hope, and compassion wherever she goes. We spent an hour chatting together on the phone, and by the end of our conversation, I felt almost high. Her beaming light is infectious and her story is moving. She is a powerful voice of hope, resilience, and positivity. She is the perfect face for this month's breast cancer awareness.
Angela first discovered she was at high risk for breast cancer six years ago when her family urged her to get tested for the BRCA gene and the results came back positive for BRCA2 gene. A positive test result for BRCA1 means a person is at high risk for breast cancer, while a positive test result for BRCA2 means a person is at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Angela was devastated. Originally, she didn't even want to get tested. Her mindset before the test was she'd rather not know, but her family begged her, and now she knew the scary truth. The doctors recommended she have her breasts removed before the time she turned forty. They told her she probably wouldn't be able to have kids, and they said that every six months, she would need to come in for a breast MRI and transvaginal ultrasounds. She was overwhelmed. She was angry and scared. She fought against the recommendations, opting to come in for testing only once a year or so. She had several emotional breakdowns, but each time came out the other side and carried on.
Then, this past June, she felt a lump under her armpit.
She called up a friend to check the mass and then two days later, at her already scheduled routine mammogram, the doctor agreed that something suspicious was there. The 3D mammogram is the one that caught the lump. The regular scans didn't pick up on the mass because her breasts were too dense--an all-too-common problem I recently learned about from Dr. April A. Beaman, who offers thermography health screenings in Farmington, CT.
Two days after the 3D mammogram found suspicious activity, Angela came back in for a biopsy and discovered the cancer was invasive. The doctor said she would need to go through with the bilateral mastectomy, and because Angela already had six years to process this chance, she said, "the earlier the better!" By the end of June, she had the surgery scheduled for August 7, 2019 with Dr. Maureen Chung (the doctor who started the breast cancer center in Fall River) at the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, MA. Angela had nothing but praise for her surgeon. Dr. Chung did a phenomenal job with the breast removal and immediate reconstruction. She inserted chest expanders behind the muscle and pumped saline into the port to stretch out the skin to mimic a breast. After three sessions of saline injections (two more to go!), Angela will be ready to have the chest expanders removed and have them replaced with implants--a Christmas present she is very much looking forward to!
Although her journey is not over and she still has surgeries, recovery, and allergic reactions to get through, Angela remains positive and full of wisdom. She believes everyone needs a good support system, especially through difficult times. Throughout her hospital stay, her friends and family kept her going. Her friend stayed with her the first night after her surgery and then her mom came to stay the next night. Visitors brought flowers and surrounded her with love. Post-surgery, the love continues. This past Saturday, one of her best friends held a fundraiser in her honor and invited Angela up on stage to give a speech on positivity:
Many people have asked me how I have remained so strong and positive throughout this journey...Well, I attribute that to three things. One, I have always had an optimistic approach to life. Ever since my diagnosis not once have I asked “why me?” I have simply said to many people, “These are just the cards I’ve been dealt. There’s no looking back, so I have to figure out the plan and keep moving forward.”
Two, the amount of love and support I have received is indescribable. Just look around you. And that’s only a fraction. Before and after my surgery so many friends offered to give me rides when I couldn’t drive, cooked meals, sent cards with words of encouragement, meaningful gifts, and said countless prayers. Believe me when I say I very much appreciate it all, and again, just another reason that I continue to smile every day.
And three, last but not least, I come from two very strong families. I have Dolan and Tavares blood, and aside from the road rage (that’s from the Dolan side), throughout my life I have witnessed so much strength and overcoming of adversity from my family. That’s why I have to be strong. It’s part of who I am.
Despite the challenges that I’ve been through, I will always consider myself one of the lucky ones. The cancer was caught early on, no chemo or radiation was needed...I truly believe that I have angels watching over me. That being said, at this time I want to give a shout-out to my friend John who passed away unexpectedly a few days ago. He was supposed to be here with us today, but I know that he’s watching and here in spirit.
And with that, please accept my heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you, for the all of the support you have given me. It is the most beautiful thing to look around me and see so many people that I care about from all different facets of my life, together in one place, and rooting for me. Just thank you.
And now I will leave you with my favorite Frida Kahlo quote (who most of you know is my spirit animal): “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
Also, in honor and support of Angela, my good friend Dee Floyd recently collaborated with several models and Janelle Feigley, artist and owner of Elle Art Design, to create breast-cancer-awareness inspired works of art. The paintings are part of a collection called The People Project and will be up for sale Saturday, November 23, 2019 at Sundance Massage and Wellness. All proceeds will be donated.
Location: Sundance Massage and Wellness
Address: 410 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI
Time: 5:30 - 8:30PM
Keep up the push for awareness and positive work ladies! I am beyond honored to be a part of all your beautiful lives.
Dr. April A Beaman: https://ctthermography.com/
Janelle Feigley: https://www.elleartdesign.com/blank
The People Project Event: https://www.sundanceri.com/community-studio