October 23, 2013 | 08:22 AM
Patrice Brown of Depauw has participated in other fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, but Saturday's third annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Corydon will have new meaning for her.
Brown, 55, had a double mastectomy Aug. 8.
"I truly never thought I'd have breast cancer," she said, especially since there wasn't a family history of the disease.
Patrice Brown of Depauw looks at get-well cards she received following her double mastectomy Aug. 8. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor (click for larger version)
The ACS reports that breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women; only lung cancer claims more. An estimated 39,600 deaths are expected this year alone from breast cancer.
Brown said she had participated in previous fundraisers, such as the Susan Komen walk in Louisville, because she thought one day someone in her family, maybe a granddaughter, might one day be faced with breast cancer.
"I never thought it would be me," she said.
Brown, a 1976 graduate of the old Milltown High School and a former dispatcher for the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. and Indiana State Police for 10 years, felt a lump in her right breast while showering on July 26, which is her parents' wedding anniversary.
"It felt like a ping-pong ball size," Brown said. "I tried to think of anything else it could be."
She had a mammogram on Aug. 1, another special occasion in the family, her nephew's birthday. Then, a second mammogram was done. Four days later, she heard the news from her doctor, Lisa Clunie, that she did, in fact, have breast cancer. Brown said it was an estrogen-based tumor.
Brown said there was no question of how to handle it. She had both breasts removed on Aug. 8 and does not plan to have reconstructive surgery.
"I'm comfortable with my body," she said. "I love myself, but I love (her family) so much more."
Brown and her husband of 24 years, Jeff, who is a pipefitter, have three children, Allison, Josiah and Lucas, and four grandchildren.
The choice Brown made isn't for everyone.
"Everybody's different," she said. "You have to respect their choice" for how they deal with it.
Brown's husband was "on board with whatever would keep me alive," she said. "He's been a godsend."
Brown praised Harrison County Hospital, where she had all of her procedures, and its staff. Besides the initial surgery, performed by Dr. Stephen Bodney and requiring a one-night stay, Brown had to return for a few days after developing a hematoma.
"Everything was wonderful," she said. "I am so grateful to them. From the day I walked in for pre-op until I left after the second stay, they were wonderful."
Brown has received care at home from Lynn Harrell, a home health care nurse from HCH. She also expressed appreciation for the support she's received from her parents, Richard and Alice Edwards of Milltown, and sister-in-law, Melissa Edwards, who's helped with cooking and cleaning.
Keeping a positive attitude, along with support from family and friends, has helped Brown through the ordeal, which has also strengthened her relationship with God, Brown said.
"Did I ever have a moment?" she asked before telling how she knew she wanted to beat the cancer. "I'd rather it be me than my mother, daughter or sister-in-law."
"The support I had made it so much better," Brown added. "We really don't know how precious life is until we're faced with something like this."
Now, as she continues to recover, Brown takes a hormone blocker to minimize cancer cells from forming elsewhere in her body
Brown strongly urges women to have regular mammograms.
"I hadn't had a mammogram in eight years," she said, adding that she just hadn't made time for it, despite having health insurance that would pay for the procedure. "Find some way to have it done," she tells others.
For Saturday's Making Strides walk, Brown has put together a team, the B Team. Friends and family can join her team or make a donation to the ACS in her name.
"I'm just happy for each day I've had since my diagnosis," Brown said.