Barbara Brown

“No one likes to be ill but yet we all know it takes sunshine and rain to make flowers grow and sometimes an illness that seems so distressing is a time of renewal and a Spiritual Blessing.”

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago at the age of 46, I was blessed to have been surrounded by hundreds of persons who supported me during the entire treatment process. At the time of my diagnosis I was an elementary school Principal. The day after my cancer diagnosis, I called a faculty meeting and shared the news with my entire staff; they shared it with their students; and the students with their parents. The entire County of Goochland, Virginia knew of my battle with cancer. The school and community kept me lifted up in prayer. I will always treasure the verse that is stated above that was on one of the many cards that I received. For truly the diagnoses of cancer has been a blessing to me in many ways.

Prior to my diagnosis in 1989, I had been diagnosed as having fibroidal breasts and had undergone numerous biopsies that were all benign. A few months prior to my scheduled mammogram I felt another lump and asked for an earlier mammogram than what had been scheduled for me. The biopsy indicated that it was malignant.

At the time, I was divorced and my younger daughter Mary was attending Spelman. On the day of the surgery my daughter Martha, who was at that time 24years old and a graduate of Hampton University, accompanied me to the hospital and prayed for me as I was escorted into the operating room. (At the age of 37, Martha was ordained as the first female deacon of our Church).

I had a lumpectomy. Many lymph nodes were removed. This was followed by 33 treatments of radiation and months of chemotherapy. I also agreed to participate in a clinical trial, and I encourage my African American Sisters to give serious consideration when asked to participate in a clinical trial. The blessing was that I was never ill, neither from the chemotherapy nor from the radiation, and did not loose my hair. After each chemo treatment, I went home took a 3-4 hour nap and continued with my daily activities. I recalled on one occasion of taking chemotherapy and flying to the Bahamas later that night. Through it all I kept a very positive attitude and developed a wonderful relationship with, my physician, Dr. Walter Lawrence.

Dr. Lawrence invited me to participate in a video focusing on clinical trials and also invited me to speak before the General Assembly on insurance issues related to breast cancer. Due to my school community’s knowledge of my breast cancer, parents who were diagnosed felt very comfortable in using me as a sounding board as they struggled with their diagnosis.

I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer but my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 79. She is now 85 and continues to take Tamoxifen. My daughters are now 35 and 40 years of age, respectively. They have religiously had their mammograms every year for the last 10 years. I have become a true advocate for the support of my African-American sisters with breast cancer. God has endowed me with the ability to conduct breast cancer workshops. My next presentation shall be on Lymphedema even though I have a severe case of Lymphedema in my right arm. I met with Hillary Clinton in 1992 and testified twice before the National Institute of Health on breast cancer issues. Just this year I was honored as The Breast Cancer Hero for Richmond, Virginia by BMW and the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

In April of 2004, I was selected to visit with President Bush at the White House to kick off the National Race for the Cure. I serve on the Board of the Massey Cancer Center Advisory Board and The Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Board and I am an active member of the Richmond Chapter of Sister’s Network.

I recently celebrated my 15th year as a breast cancer survivor and invited 80 of my friends to worship with me and my daughters at my Church. All of the survivors came to the altar and a special prayer was offered for them. After the worship service I hosted a Survivor Luncheon for them. I know that God has blessed me and he wants me to always be a support for my sisters through their journeys of healing.


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