Celebrating the life of my Aunt Marla Brown
As we all know October is breast cancer awareness month. People wear pink, raise money, and there is all sorts of information put out there about breast cancer. For far too many of us, breast cancer awareness is not just 1 month out of the year, it is something we think about and live with every single day. My family has lived with the reality of breast cancer since April of 1994, because that is the month and year in which my 27 year old aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Twenty plus years ago breast cancer diagnosis and detection was different than it is today. In 1994, 27 year old females did not fit the breast cancer patient mold. In fact, when my Aunt first visited her doctor after detecting the 2 lumps herself, she was told “27 year old's do not get breast cancer, go home.” Thankfully, she knew her body and knew something was not right.
Marla was sick for 12 years and fought a long hard battle. One thing, I will never forget about her is the pink Breast Cancer ribbon hat that she always wore. She was wearing that hat the last time we all saw her. Marla had lost her gorgeous red hair many times and after her brain surgery, it never really came back. From that point on, the pink hat became part of her identity. I think she wore the hat, one to cover her head, but two because she wanted to raise awareness for breast cancer every where she went. She wore her hat proud and she wore her scars even prouder. She had a lot of them.
When Marla got the chance to tell somebody about the disease, she did. I was 13 years old when she was diagnosed, but before she got her official diagnosis, I was at her house for Easter. While I was there, she had me feel the 2 lumps she had found. As a 13 year-old I did not understand why she made me do that. Let's be honest that was a weird thing for a 13 year-old. To this day, that moment is still very vivid in my mind. I will never forget where we were, the day, what I was wearing, and most importantly, what those lumps felt like. Years later, my mom and I talked about it and my Mom said, "Marla wanted to make sure you knew what a lump felt like, she did that for you."
Marla's story is one of a woman who was thrown every curve ball imaginable. Every time a doctor told her the odds were against her, she showed them they were wrong. She loved to prove people wrong! Breast cancer never defined her, in fact in a lot of ways, she changed the face of the disease. At the time of her diagnosis, she was the first 27 year old her doctor's had seen with breast cancer. Through the years, she took experimental drugs, treatments, and therapies. The medical world learned a lot about breast cancer because of Marla.
In July of 2006, the good Lord called Marla home. She hadn't walked in nearly 8 months and she talked about walking all the time. I am sure, she didn't just walk to greet her King, she ran, as hard and as fast as she could. She left this world very much at peace with her disease and her life.
Pink is the official color of breast cancer and it is probably my favorite color. I am sure there is a sentimental reason why that is such; I adored my Aunt Marla, everybody who knew her adored her. When you wear Pink, not just in the month October, but every day, lets wear pink for those who fight, those who have lost the battle, and those who are affected by this disease everyday.