From survivor to advocate

It was 2011 when 13-year-old Sandra Frangos, an eighth grader from Sparrows Point, first noticed a small lump in her armpit. Three pediatricians dismissed it as an ingrown hair. With increased symptoms, including weight loss and night sweats, Sandra’s mom, Charlene, insisted they see someone who would not dismiss them. She was referred to the office of Joe Wiley, M.D. and within a day, following bloodwork, was diagnosed with Stage IIIb Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Treatment would be managed by Dr. Wiley at Sinai Hospital. The following day, Sandra received a port and a bone marrow biopsy to check to see if the cancer was in her bones. Chemotherapy started immediately. Losing her hair was devastating for Sandra. Treatment meant that Sandra missed a lot of school and worked closely with a tutor so she could keep up with assignments.

At the time of her treatment, Sandra recalls a brief conversation about protecting her reproductive system, but not a detailed conversation about fertility, or any measures to preserve her fertility. She knew that chemotherapy and radiation were needed to save her life, so it was not an option to consider an alternative.

Sandra turned 14 in the summer of 2012. By this time, she had completed radiation and was returning to some normalcy in her routine. She started high school at Patapsco High School. Sandra recalls feeling fatigued constantly but was happy to be finished with treatment.  She was considered in remission while continuing to follow up with scans and lab work at Sinai.

In 2016, Sandra graduated from high school and by 2019 was declared cancer-free. While working in property management, Sandra met Andrew Hemsley in 2021. Upon meeting Andrew, Sandra felt an immediate connection and knew this was the man she would marry. Although she was eager to share her cancer journey with Andrew, she also did not want to scare him away. Feeling strongly that she should share with Andrew that her ability to become pregnant was unknown, Andrew shared that he, too, is a childhood cancer survivor! They compared scars where they had ports inserted and their connection grew immediately. Andrew, who grew up on Kent Island, survived Stage 2a testicular cancer at the age of 15.

Andrew and Sandra never looked back and have been together since they first met. On November 4, 2023, Sandra and Andrew married and settled on Kent Island. Sandra’s parents, Charlene and Tony, are so very proud of Sandra and all she has overcome and accomplished.

Andrew comes from a family of Chesapeake Bay fishermen. The family operates charter fishing boats, including the 47’ Breezin Thru. Sandra excitedly joined the Hemsley family trade in 2022. Together, they are navigating life and the Chesapeake Bay.

While cancer remains in the past for Sandra and Andrew as far as survival, it impacts them today as they focus on starting a family. Sandra is surprised how little information is available for survivors of pediatric cancer related to fertility. She is often educating her doctors during visits and finds so little research and education on late effects of childhood cancer treatments, particularly as it relates to fertility. Sandra is now determined to advocate and educate a community of fertility professionals about this unique category — childhood cancer survivors.

While she loves her fertility specialist, she and Andrew make a two-hour journey each way to Virginia as they prioritize their family. Sandra and Andrew remain positive and grateful for each day of health, which they both know is never promised.

Sandra and Andrew remain an inspiration to CCF and all who know them.