Thursday, June 30, 2016
Taking aim at breast cancer
Rosalyn Brown is a breast cancer survivor and encourages other women with breast cancer to join her for a “Shoot Out Cancer” fundraiser Friday, July 15, as she takes aim and fires away to eradicate that dreadful disease that ravages the bodies of so many women and causes undue stress and emotional turmoil.
The shoot out starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Global Training Academy, 2611 S. Mendenhall, and benefits The Pink House, a non-profit Brown launched to create awareness and “change the lives of individuals and their entire families battling cancer.” She is the executive director.
“The aim is not just to eradicate breast cancer, but any other cancer as well,” said Brown, who was diagnosed with stage 3b HER-2 positive breast cancer on Sept. 24, 2007. “Although the focus is on breast cancer, I won’t turn away anyone.”
The turning point for Brown began after she discovered a lump under her left arm. Her lymph node was swollen and tender to the touch. “For the longest, I looked over it,” she said. “I thought it was a reaction to my deodorant or detergent I was using.”
Brown was 30 years old and recently married. “Being a newlywed, you wonder how your spouse would receive you,” she said. “I had small children, too, and filled with mixed emotions. But I had faith in myself and couldn’t let my children down.”
Rickey, Brown’s husband, couldn’t let her down either. He drove her to the emergency room for a diagnosis. “I thought I was getting a mammogram,” she said. “But they referred me to a specialist at the UT Cancer Institute on Wolf River Boulevard.”
Brown didn’t know what to expect. Her thoughts were confounded, jumbled. “They did a biopsy and sent me to get a mammogram. A couple of days later, when the results came back, it was confirmed that I had breast cancer.”
Those jumbled thoughts turned to hysteria. “My first phone call was to my husband,” said Brown, feeling her world was spiraling out of control. Imbued with faith, she still felt a sense of dread. “When you hear cancer, you assume the worst.”
Brown’s malady is not uncommon. The American Cancer Society had estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women 40 to 80-plus in 2015 and an estimated 60,290 additional cases of in situ (non-invasive) breast cancer. Estimated deaths: 40,290.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women. The survival rate for them has increased, but remains lower for white women. Although rare, men can develop breast cancer, too. There were 2,350 new cases and 440 deaths.
Brown is growing stronger in her faith. “The enemy will test your faith,” she said, adding that a strong support system of family and friends helped prepare her for the battle ahead. She also read lots of books about cancer so she could speak intelligently to her doctors.
“I had some awesome doctors,” said Brown, who had to undergo several surgeries, including a mastectomy of the left breast, reconstruction, and chemotherapy for five months. “They took my abdomen muscle and stomach tissue and created me a breast. They repositioned my belly button too.”
The doctors also performed a hysterectomy “to prevent any other forms of cancer,” said Brown, who developed a slight hernia in her belly button a few years ago. “They went back in and removed the hernia. Now I don’t have a belly button.”
Through it all, Brown survived the onslaught of breast cancer. Her husband and children – Darrius Horton, 19; Daja Brown, 13; Dawn Brown, 11; and Diamond Brown, 10 – were there when she needed them the most.
(For more information, call Rosalyn Brown at (901) 430-6391 or email RosalynBrown@thepinkhousememphis.org)