Teresa Hall Franklin, married mom of 3 and successful private practice psychotherapist, has transformed her connection to health, empathy, and nutrition through a life-altering battle with breast cancer.
“I love helping my clients transform negative cognitive and behavior patterns as they become the best versions of who they’re meant to be,” of her 21 years’ experience in the mental health industry. Her psychotherapy practice specializes in mood disorders, anxiety, grief, and couples counseling.
She recently created a cancer-support meet-up group, upon receiving her own diagnosis.
“I wanted to do something to give back to that population. It’s one of my pride and joys.”
Teresa had been routinely receiving diagnostic ultrasounds and mammograms for over 2 decades, due to having fibroid cystic breasts, the tissue of which is thicker and makes it difficult to locate tumors.
In December of 2020, Teresa recalls showering and feeling a sore and tender spot under her left underarm, “I immediately knew what it was. I thought, okay, it’s time to gear up for battle and fight for my life.”
By the time she secured a doctor’s visit after the holidays, the mammograms showing a 2B stage, HER2 Positive diagnosis came as no surprise.
They immediately began chemotherapy and infusions, with plans for Teresa to undergo a double mastectomy surgery in which both breasts are removed and replaced with temporary expanders that stretch the tissue to make room for implants.
Between 6 rounds of chemotherapy from February 2021 to June 2021 and a staph infection that offset the entire breast replacement process, Teresa still reflects on her experience with gratitude.
“I feel like I had the dream team of physicians. I felt completely cared for and comfortable with the treatment plan,” of her attending doctor entourage: Dr. Sonia Benn at West Cancer Center, Dr. Sonia Alvarez of the University of Tennessee’s Health Sciences Plastic Surgery Department, and Dr. Ashley Hendrix at Regional One, the latter of whom helped Teresa receive Paxman Scalp Cooling for hair retention. The method works by freezing hair follicles so they enter into a dormant period, preventing damage and assisting with re-growth.
“The cancer journey is very tough emotionally and physically, so you want to hold onto whatever identity you do have as best as you can.”
A few alterations to Teresa’s already-healthy pescatarian diet included replacing bottom-feeder seafood options like catfish and tilapia with nutrient-rich salmon for its omega fatty acids, several daily servings of cruciferous veggies, and hydrating with electrolytes.
“[Eating this way] certainly did help me,” in keeping her body strong during treatment.
At-home Youtube yoga videos (@YogawithAdriene) and plenty of stretching helped Teresa counteract the muscular atrophy that chemotherapy inflicts on the body.
“I would push myself each day, not too hard, but a little further than the day before.”
A daily meditation practice and prayer to stave off negative thoughts and cancer stories swirling around internet spaces also proved beneficial.
Now, Teresa attends classes at Better Bodies Yoga and takes short walks around the neighborhood.
She shares that striving to live a normal life throughout the entire process was crucial: working, exercising, engaging with family, and traveling “way more than I probably should have,” she chuckles while recalling family expeditions to the U.S. Virginia Islands, Tampa, and Houston.
“So many people wait until cancer is over to live; my goal is to help people find life during cancer.”
To join their cancer support group:
8500 Walnut Grove Rd, Room 222, 12-1:30 pm every Thursday
Join virtually via Zoom: ID# 7098436955
By Shlomit Ovadia
Photo by Tindall Stephens