NEW YORK (PIX11) — A Brooklyn woman has turned life’s hardships into triumph. It was her mother’s battle with breast cancer, as well as her own cancer diagnosis as well, that made her realize her calling to become an oncology nurse. PIX11 News is celebrating Nurses Week with her inspiring story.
Jennifer Francois wears her glasses with the green ribbon etched on them. The ribbon is an ever-present reminder that she is a survivor, a liver cancer survivor. “I was shocked to be honest,” said Francois. “My primary care doctor was shocked. I thought, am I going to die?”
Francois is a nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside in their cancer unit. She is passionate about her work because her journey hasn’t been an easy one. In 2017, when she was just 27 years old, she got the life-altering diagnosis. She had liver cancer and needed laparoscopic surgery to remove part of her liver. As she recovered, her mom, Jackie, took care of her. Then, just four months after Francois’ surgery, life threw another curveball. Jackie was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
“Just to tell my mom, I have cancer, now you have cancer, bad news all over again,” said Francois. “It was scary because cancer didn’t run in the family at the time.” Jackie underwent chemo and a mastectomy on her left breast. The roles were reversed, and the daughter now became her mother’s caregiver.
Jackie Francois remembered how difficult it was for her daughter. “She takes care of me and goes to school in the morning, comes back and takes care of me, doing everything,” said Jackie Francois.
The Francois family, from Crown Heights, is close-knit. Jennifer is the second oldest of four girls. They’ve always faced life’s challenges head-on. Through her own cancer journey and through watching her mother battle cancer, Jennifer realized she wanted to give back, pay it forward. She was inspired by the nurses she encountered who showed her and her mom endless compassion, and Jennifer wanted to do the same for others.
“It kind of pushed me more towards oncology because I saw how much the nurses took care of the patients,” said Jennifer Francois.
She balanced finishing nursing school and taking care of her family through the pandemic. Tragedy struck again when Francois’ father died from COVID-19, and although he wouldn’t live to see her graduate, she felt his presence and his pride on graduation day. She says being a cancer survivor gives her deep insight into the patients under her care. “I know all the long hard days when you have to work, when you have to do treatments,” said Jennifer Francois. “I know what they’re feeling. I’m very empathetic with them.”
And as we celebrate both Nurses Week and Mother’s Day this year, the Francois women are honoring each other and drawing on their faith. “God does a good thing for everybody. Thank you Jesus,” said Jackie Francois.
“I’m just appreciative that my mom is with me right now,” added Jennifer Francois.
Today, both Jennifer and Jackie are free of cancer. Their message is to live in the moment and live life to the fullest.