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Amanda Brown, 35, recently celebrated an important anniversary. Along with her husband Brian and seven-year-old daughter, Victoria, the family walked a one-mile fun walk in April for Komen Race for the Cure Walk for Breast Cancer. It has been six months since her physician gave her the good news that she was free of cancer on December 17, 2002. But in her mind, she knows it was a small voice that saved her life.
May 16, 2002, she heard the voice in her head loudly. “Do it now,” echoed the voice, referring to her monthly self-examination of her breasts. But, she thought, it’s not till next week? The message played louder in her mind, pressing her to heed its warning.
“I knew it was cancer. I just knew,” said Amanda. “It was funny but when I heard it, I knew it was God’s way of warning me and there was a reason he wanted me to find this lump.”
She started her self-exam and leaned over and found the small lump. Asking her husband to see if he could feel it, they both concurred that there was definitely something there that felt like a lump. Amanda and her sister have been doing breast exams more consistently since February 1993 when Amanda’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma and underwent a lumpectomy.
Immediately, she went to the Indiana Breast Center in Indianapolis, IN, where she had always gone for her annual mammogram. After several tests and a needle biopsy, she went home to wait for the results.
The phone rang while Amanda was enjoying dinner with her husband and daughter one Thursday evening shortly after going through tests. She took the phone in the bedroom as not to worry her husband. Her doctor was on the other end.
“Amanda, you have cancer,” he said. “It’s called Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma.” Later, he would tell her she was lucky to have found it at such a small size, 1.5 cm. He told her she experienced a miracle because most of these types of lumps are not found till much bigger and it is too late.
“I know,” she said, holding back tears. He asked her how did she know, and she replied she just did. She went into the kitchen and just mouthed the words “I have cancer” to her husband, and saw the look of pain and terror in his face and eyes.
All she could think of was how she wished her mom, who died in 1992 of ovarian cancer, could be with her through this whole terrible ordeal. The day after the phone call, the phone rang again.
“Mrs. Amanda Brown?” A pleasant voice on the other end asked. “Yes?” she said. “This is Odell’s Photography Studio and we were cleaning out our inventory and found a package with your name on it,” said the lady on the other end.
“I don’t know what it could be, but I’ll come in tomorrow and check it,” said Amanda.
Rain splattered the windshield of her van on that day, matching her melancholy mood. What could this picture be? I haven’t ordered pictures from there in years.
She approached the counter, where a pretty, tall, blonde-headed lady was smiling at her. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I got a call yesterday saying there was a package waiting for me here?” The lady handed her the manila envelope, and, as soon as Amanda saw the familiar handwriting of her mother with the date of February 1992, which is when her mom was diagnosed with cancer, she grew emotional and started crying, barely able to speak. “That is my mom’s handwriting…she’s dead now.”
Inside the envelope was a blown-up picture of Amanda in her wedding gown, with several small, wallet-sized photos included. She remembered how her mom wanted both her and her sister’s wedding pictures to hang side-by-side in the family home.
At that moment, Amanda felt her mom was telling her everything would be okay, and that no matter what happened, she would survive. The lady asked her what was wrong, and she explained how her mom died of ovarian cancer a few months after ordering that picture and probably forgot about it.
The lady started crying, too. She told Amanda her own doctor had just told her she might have ovarian cancer. Both women hugged, cried and prayed right in the middle of the store and all those passing by them. “I think God is telling both of us we are going to be okay,” said Amanda.
She couldn’t wait to call her sister on the cell phone in the van. Looking up, the weather had suddenly become sunny and everything seemed brighter and more beautiful than before she had walked into the store.
Later, she would endure a lumpectomy on June 11, 2002, which happened to fall on what would have been her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Doctors told her the cancer was hormone sensitive and would spread to the right breast too. She opted to have both removed to have a higher chance of survival. Amanda is now on Tamoxifin for the next five years and recently underwent reconstructive surgery, which she says would not be a consideration normally but with a daughter who will grow up and be self-conscious of her own body image, Amanda felt it was important to try and ‘look’ as normal as possible for Victoria.
Her daughter already worries about cancer, and knows more than most seven-year-olds her age. “She knows it will be a part of her life and knows she will have to do self breast exams when she is older,” said Amanda.
As she and her husband and daughter took part in the one-mile fun walk for breast cancer, Amanda smiled, knowing that she was blessed. Conversations with her mom are just as fluent in her mind as those in prayer with God. She truly believes her mom, and God, are watching out for her and her family as they move forward to a future filled with hope, promise and joy.
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