Celebrity Apprentice Star Camilla Franks’ Inspiring Breast Cancer Journey
In January 2018, eight weeks after iconic Australian designer Camilla Franks, 45, gave birth to her daughter, Luna, the then 42-year-old found a lump on her breast.
Just days before she was due to close Australian Fashion Week with her latest show, Franks took to social media to announce that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I start on this journey humble but resilient,” she captioned the post. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared but I am fearlessly determined to do whatever it takes by focusing on my body, mind and spirit as I take my first trusting steps towards recovery.
As a womenswear designer, Franks knew that the wider “Camilla tribe have already been on this journey themselves” and chose them to become an “inspiration” as she began her own path.
The Camilla designer also looked to her “beautiful daughter Luna” “and it is her smile and warmth that reminds me this is a challenge I will embark on with courage – for her and my fiance [musician JP Jones] as well as myself.”
In September 2019, Franks then revealed on Studio 10 that she was to undergo ovary removal surgery following intensive chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, while also revealing she couldn’t have any more children.
“I still haven’t finished my treatment, I’ve still got to have the ovaries out and I’m not happy about that and it makes me sad,” she said at the time. “I resent cancer in some regards for stealing the opportunity to have another child and I didn’t realise how much I wanted another one until I was told I probably can’t have another one. But I also realise how bloody blessed I am to have one.”
“I lie here with a broken heart as I recover from surgery to finally remove my ovaries. The grief and pain is excruciating. I feel as if my chest is going to burst as I mourn the loss of children I can no longer bear,” she wrote.
“This hideous journey of breast cancer never ends. The gut-wrenching fear, sickness and debilitating rounds of immediate treatment are one thing, but it goes on. I have a harmful BRCA2 gene variant and with that diagnosis came a horrible reality. That not only did I have to fight the stage 3 breast cancer I had, I also had to prevent the future cancers I was so much more likely to get – more breast cancer, ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and others. I had to fight to save my life. A life which is so much more precious now that I have a little girl who loves and needs me.”
She continued: “First was the discovery of a lump, and the heartache of having to wean my 8-week old baby off my breast within days. Then 6 months of the bazooka of all chemo to attack my cancer, successfully. Then my treatment shifted to prevention. I underwent a double mastectomy, saying goodbye to my breasts which had only just been nourishing my beautiful newborn. Next went my fallopian tubes. But now, this. The divine essence of my womanhood. My ovaries, the most sacred givers of life, being taken from me, leaves the biggest hole of all.”
Franks said she hoped that that her letter would encourage other women to “stay vigilant with your own bodies”.
“There will always be an undertone of grief and sadness but I will thrive again. I will laugh. I will feel joy. Because that is who I am. I am a fighter and I will be OK but right now, I’m not.”
Now, almost three years since her cancer journey began, she is a cast member of Celebrity Apprentice and the NBCF is her charity of choice. In the very first episode, Franks stripped bare for a stunning portrait to be auctioned off for charity.
“To be here today, I am so grateful, I am so lucky. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world that I get to take another breath,” she told 9Now during a recent interview.
“A few years ago, I danced with the devil and I went on a crazy big rollercoaster ride and I’m alive today because of the incredible research. That money is going to go towards saving lives.”
Franks’ hope is that by 2030 there will be “zero deaths and zero breast cancer”.
“Because I don’t want my girl [Camilla’s daughter Luna is three] going through what I went through,” she said. “I will spend every last breath that I take trying to fight for every single dollar to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.”
In Australia, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 85. For more information, head to National Breast Cancer Foundation.