SYSTEM OF HOPE — Having a support system is important during breast cancer journey

Published 11:32 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

Dianne Brown knows the importance of having support while battling breast cancer.

And now — several years after she underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments and is considered cancer free — she looks back to those who were there for her, God being first and foremost.

Her husband, Charles, was her biggest supporter. He was there when a mass was found, and doctors said they would keep an eye on it.

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He was there two years later when a doctor suggested a biopsy, and he was there when she decided she wanted a second opinion.

She thought the second opinion by doctors at MD Anderson would show there was no need for the biopsy.

But he wasn’t able to be with her in person due to the pandemic when she received the devastating news.

He was in a hotel waiting for her. She Face-timed with him to share the news.

“They said do you realize you’ve got six cancerous tissues across your chest? And I had four lymph nodes they had to remove,” Brown said from her Port Arthur home.

“And that’s when I went into shock. I panicked. I cried. I just stood and called my husband and put him on Face-time, and he was telling me everything will be alright, everything will be alright.”

Dianne Brown is now cancer free. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Oddly enough, the spot that was found by the first doctor was not cancerous, she said. The second opinion may have saved her life.

In January 2021 she learned she would need the double mastectomy and opted to not have reconstructive surgery, as it would require doctors to take fatty tissue from her belly area to use for the breasts. She didn’t want to go through that pain twice.

She underwent chemotherapy from January to July 2021, and at one point lost her hair.

The news of the cancer was tough enough to take emotionally. She went through another shock losing all of her hair.

She was taking a shower when her hair just started coming out. She called her older sister, screaming.

“She was trying to calm me down because my husband had just gone to the store, and I was in the shower by myself,” she said. “She ended up calling my husband from the store and told him to get home.”

During radiation treatments, Brown relied on another family member for support, a son, who lived in Sugarland. Treatments lasted six weeks, Monday through Friday and on Fridays she would drive home to be with her husband, then leave early Monday and do it all over again.

During her recovery period she had many family members and friends, church members and especially her “family” at the Port Arthur Independent School District, where she worked in the shipping and receiving department and later served on the board of trustees.

“They said, ‘you need anything, just call us,’” Brown recalls. “They brought meals home and everything. It was great support. They said, ‘you don’t have to cook, we’re going to get you something.’”

Brown said if a person has support, they’ll make it through everything.

Sadly, Brown lost her husband of more than 48 years on April 30. He, too, died from cancer, though neither knew it at the time.

In 2005 Charles Brown battled colon cancer and was clear with his last colonoscopy in 2018. But days before his death this year he had undergone surgery for a hernia and was recuperating. Then all of a sudden he took a turn for the worse. An autopsy showed his cancer had returned unnoticed.

And once again Brown has her support system. Family, friends and others.

She keeps busy and is back active in the Rotary Club of Port Arthur and clubs for retired teachers and secretaries, she said.

Her advice to others, continue to get mammograms and get a second opinion if something doesn’t seem right.