When Meghan Franz, 26, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015, her life flipped upside down. The occupational therapist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, originally noticed a lump in her breast last April. Her doctor initially dismissed her concerns, but the lump continued to grow. Eventually, a mammogram and biopsy revealed that she had cancer. Her physicians decided that the best course of treatment would be chemotherapy and a double mastectomy
Franz says that the first weekend after her cancer diagnosis was full of tears. But then, she quickly had a realization: She would use her experience to help other women dealing with cancer.
“I just decided to love life and help other girls,” says Franz. “Normally people come up with little slogans when they’re diagnosed, and I really wanted my slogan to not be personal to me, but for other girls to use it in my same situation.”
Her and her family came up with the slogan “Sparkle On,” to signify that while cancer can strip away a woman’s beauty on the outside, she can still sparkle on the inside. She started a blog called She Sparkles On and began to candidly document each step of her journey, from planning her dream wedding in two weeks after her diagnosis to real talk about chemo side effects to the boob cake she had at her “Tata to the Tatas” party to a video of her in the hospital, about to undergo a double mastectomy. Her candidness and optimism as she details each step of her fight is awe-inspiring.
“I post the pictures that I post because I want women to know that they are still beautiful and by being positive and being strong they can get through anything,” Franz says.
Meghan Franz and her husband, John Koziel, before their wedding and her treatments for cancer began. Right, the bra Franz had her guests sign at her “Tata to the Tatas” party.
She shares her journey on Instagram, too, and that’s where she posted a celebratory topless picture last week, showing the scars from her April 11 double mastectomy. She currently has expanders placed under her skin, which make room for the implants she’ll get in six months.
“I knew when I posted that picture with my expanders it would catch people off guard and it would surprise people,” she says. “It turned into a ton of girls messaging me and telling me I gave them confidence.”
While she received hundreds of supportive comments on her image, some users took the opportunity to insult and belittle her. Infuriated, she shared a collage of the comments left by trolls on Instagram along with her response to them. It was shocking to her that people on Instagram would so aggressively bully anyone, let alone someone battling cancer.
“When I looked at [the bullies’] profiles, they were young kids, and that’s the most terrifying part,” Franz says. “Imagine the kids in school that they’re bullying if they’re going to bully me. That’s what’s the most shocking and upsetting about the whole thing.”
She didn’t want to attack the trolls, but she wanted to show people also going through a cancer journey that they can overcome this kind of negativity. “To all you women and men out there battling, surviving, and defeated by any illness… No matter what people say about you, continue to sparkle on,” she wrote on Instagram alongside the hurtful comments.
Franz says she regularly speaks with other women fighting cancer on social media, and her blog reaches about a thousand people each day. Her post-mastectomy photo on Instagram now has over 14,000 likes. On April 19, Franz got the good news that her surgery successfully removed the cancerous tumor. She’ll be starting radiation therapy in June.
“There’s still more for the journey, but the end is getting near,” she says. “That’s the most exciting part.”
You can follow along on her blog.