Camilla’s cancer battle: In a strange way, it was my greatest year yetFebruary 24, 2019
You won’t find too many people who would describe having cancer as the best year of their lives. But fashion designer Camilla Franks is not most people.
‘In a strange way, it was my greatest year yet’ … designer Camilla Franks has spoken publicly about her battle with breast cancer for the first time to Marie Claire magazine.Credit:Georges Antoni for Marie Claire
In her first interview since her diagnosis with breast cancer last May, Franks, 42, told Marie Claire about her trials over the past year in the lead-up to her business’ 15th anniversary.
“Last year was full on,” she told the magazine. “I was pregnant, I gave birth [to her daughter, Luna], I danced with the devil that was cancer – it was light and darkness all in one. It was tough and it was challenging but, in a strange way, it was my greatest year yet.”
Franks discovered a lump in her breast while feeding her newborn, and received her crushing diagnosis in May, just days before she was due to close Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.
Rather than cancel, the show proceeded, with Franks taking an emotional bow in the finale, with her fiance, Welsh musician JP Jones, Luna and her mother in the front row.
Soon after, Franks commenced chemotherapy and made the decision to have Jones, in the company of her closest friends, shave her long, auburn hair to the scalp.
“It was confronting and scary but it was the one thing I had control over,” she said.
Franks and Jones, whose wedding remains on hold for now, met in London nearly 25 years ago, when she was still a teenager. But it took two decades and several relationships between them to rekindle their romance.
Without Jones and Luna, Franks says she has no idea how she would be coping with this latest trial (she lost her brother at 17 and, in 2013, suffered Bell’s palsy, which left her face paralysed for a period).
Camilla Franks at her Fashion Week Australia show last May, just days after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.Credit:AAP
“JP took this [my cancer] head on and has been incredible,” she said. “He has held and carried me through some really rough waters. I’m so humbled by his courage and strength – I’ve never loved him more.”
Throughout her treatment, Franks has remained close to the business. Her collections, which focused on kaftans but have evolved to embody a majority of ready-to-wear pieces, are inspired by her travels. Her France collection has just dropped; Australia is next, a trip she took in April just before her diagnosis.
On that trip, she met with Indigenous elders in the Northern Territory and sailed the Great Barrier Reef, taking thousands of photos that her design team translates into signature prints.
For now, Franks’ focus is on continuing her treatment and recovery, which has included upping her yoga and meditation practice. She has also spent the past three months with Jones’ family in Wales, where the couple plan to split their time evenly with Sydney.
Next month, Franks will make her first speaking appearance since her illness at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s International Women’s Day breakfast.
“From the moment I turned up my practice, my focus became on living and kicking the shit out of cancer with a positive attitude,” she said. “I fought hard last year and each day I feel my body regaining its energy. Living excites me.”
The March edition of Marie Claire featuring Camilla Franks is on sale on February 28.
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