October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and guest blogger Dee Dee Parker graciously accepted my invitation to write a tribute to her daughter Brooke. Brooke touched many lives during her long breast cancer battle and Dee Dee tells her story beautifully.
Along with the beautiful hued leaves of bright crimson, butterscotch, and chestnut, October brings on its crisp air, a flurry of pink. Magazines are full of heart-warming stories of cancer survivors. Shops along village and city streets are displaying merchandise adorned with the familiar pink ribbon.
It is breast cancer awareness month.
My introduction to breast cancer came while I sat rocking on my farmhouse porch enjoying a glass of sweet tea.
The phone rang—“Mom, I’m at the hospital and was just told I have breast cancer. I am having a biopsy in a few minutes.”
My world turned upside down as my thirty-four year old daughter, Brooke, went on to say that the technician said her films and scans showed an extremely large mass.
Brooke was alone. I was terrified.
A few days before, Brooke had discovered a lump in her breast while showering. She went to the doctor and was told it was nothing to be alarmed about, but would be sent for tests to put her worry at ease. She also had experienced leg pain and had been put into strenuous physical therapy. It was a true miracle that none of her weakened bones had broken.
After the biopsy, my husband and I, along with her husband, Trey, met at the oncologist’s office to get the results. It was the worst-case scenario—stage four with metastases throughout her body. Her full-body scan looked like a Christmas tree lit with strings of bright lights. The tumors were in most of her bones and some of the organs.
Brooke was given less than six months to live.
I went to the rest room and threw up.
After the appointment with the oncologist, Brooke was sent to radiation to try and help slow the erosion of bones in the hips, her most painful joints. Chemotherapy would begin the following week. Any treatment would be considered palliative.
Brooke decided to fight the disease by receiving continued radiation and chemotherapy. We gathered all the information we could on late stage breast cancer treatments. Brooke went on a healthy diet of foods to help her body fight the debilitating effects of her treatments.
Our family and friends from around the world prayed.
I went from room to room in her house and blessed each one. Scriptures were posted on the wall by her bed.
The time of treatment was so very harsh. Some months we gained ground and others were times of devastating retreat, but Brooke fought on.
At the chemotherapy center we saw women who had lost their hair due to chemo. Brooke decided to start a ministry that became known as Brooke’s Bonnets. Brooke bought soft yarn that ladies at church fashioned into precious hats (bonnets) and I bought the gift bags and tissue.
Brooke gave out the hats on every appointment day along with hugs and prayers. She was even asked to give encouragement to patients having a hard time accepting their diagnosis. I have the precious picture of Brooke in my mind of her pushing her IV pole down the hall to offer hope and support to other women.
Wanting to do more, Brooke and I decided to write a children’s book with the proceeds going to breast cancer research and patients needs.
The book, Josie Jo’s Got To Know, raised a great deal of money, opening opportunities for us to speak at different venues. Brooke’s sweet spirit and her desire to be a blessing to others shone through her pain.
Doctors were amazed that Brooke lived four years. Her legacy is one of hope and of helping others on their journey.
Since Brooke’s death in 2006, many advances in breast cancer treatments have evolved with the ongoing search for a cure. Brooke asked that I always stress the need for self-exams through my writing and speaking, which I honor in her memory.
Brooke would be the first person to wave all survivors onward with that flurry of pink. I believe she stands by me as we wish you God’s speed toward wellness and a cure. I hold you close in my prayers.
Award-winning Appalachian writer Dee Dee Parker infuses wisps of Southern grace throughout her writing. Recent First Place winner in Southern Writers Magazine’s Short Story Contest, she has also contributed articles to Chicken Soup for the Soul, Christian Devotions US, Almost an Author, Inspire a Fire, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. Proceeds from her children’s book, Josie Jo’s Got to Know, benefit breast cancer research.
Visit Dee Dee’s website: http://comegohomewithme.blogspot.com