VAN BUREN, MO (KFVS) -
Erica Griffin describes herself as an independent, type a person.
She always had a plan.
"I love being a wife and a mom taking care of my kids, that's what our life has always been about is following them to their games and their sporting events and everything they do," Griffin said.
That was until she picked up the phone one seemingly ordinary September day about seven years ago.
"I was fixing us breakfast when they called," Griffin said. "I didn't even think of them calling that day, didn't even think about it. They had taken the lump out, it was going to be normal and everything was fine and it wasn't."
Suddenly, nothing was ordinary.
Despite having no family history, and a lifestyle that included a healthy died and regular exercise, Griffin was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
"That's not something you plan for," Griffin said. "That's not something you ever think about. I mean one day you're going on your daily life, taking care of your kids, going to ball games, packing lunches, doing your thing. And it seems like in the blink of an eye, you have no hair, you're struggling to get off the couch, you don't feel well and you're having to ask for help."
According to Mary Nespor, the cancer navigator at Saint Francis Medical Center, when cancer strikes the roles tend to change.
"Many people have never asked for help in their lifetime," Nespor said. "The thought of having a parent with cancer can be overwhelming because that person was the 'rock' for the family."
That was true for Griffin.
"My heart just sunk," Griffin said. "It sunk for me, it sunk for my kids, it sunk for my husband, I was just devastated. But I was determined."
She turned the fear of leaving her children motherless into motivation to fight.
"I wasn't going to let it get me," Griffin said. "I was going to stand up and I was going to fight and I was going to fight for my kids to be here."
Nespor said each family member will deal differently with a loved one's diagnosis.
However, in her experience, she said support occurs in may ways.
In time, she said some of the best help comes from individuals who assist with something they know and do well.
Griffin knows her family played a huge role in her ability to kick cancer.
"Some days you're ready to lace up the boxing gloves and go at it and absolutely take down anything in your path, especially cancer," Griffin said. "But then there are days when you don't feel quite as strong. You really can feel defeated and in those moments, and those times is when you really have to dig deep. I relied on my faith, on my family, on my friends, and look at my kids."
Griffin is nearly seven years cancer free.
However, she knows that it can come back at any time.
That's why she has this advice for all women:
"It's so important to be your own advocate and get things checked out even when it is the scariest thing in the world to get it checked out, it can be a lot scarier if by chance it is something and you don't catch it," Griffin said."If I hadn't of got it checked out when I did, I probably wouldn't be here."