Brown shares story of support

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

Veronica Brown used the support of her family to beat cancer. -- Desiree Taylor

Dedicated, driven, active and 100 percent committed, is how most people would describe seven-year cancer survivor and co-chairperson for the Dallas County Relay for Life Veronica Brown.

“If you’re still standing after doctors tell you you have cancer, you’re a survivor,” Brown said. “My mission is to try to help other people to go through the process.”

Growing up with seven brothers and sisters in Prichard, Brown remembers how she and her family were extremely close.  That closeness would prove to create an even stronger bond through the multiple storms of cancer that wreaked havoc in the family tree.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s a family story for us,” Brown said. “Only God got me through.”

Brown’s mother, Johnnie Mae Summer, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983 sixth months before Brown’s marriage. In 1996, doctors diagnosed Johnnie with ovarian cancer. She died the following January in 1997. Brown recalls the moment her mother died as a hard blow.

“I never allowed myself to fully accept that my mother’s death was imminent,” Brown said. “I struggled with it.”

Just when Brown prepared herself to pull through her mother’s death, cancer struck again — taking the lives of her two aunts, her father in 2008, her sister Sherri James in 2009 and her oldest brother in January 2010. Through the years, Brown’s other siblings had been diagnosed as well.

It wasn’t until after the deaths in the family that surviving members and their daughters, Brown said, decided to get tested for a cancer gene.

“It didn’t click to us that it was a gene situation,” Brown said. “When my sister Sherri was diagnosed for the second time, I figured something was wrong. We had medical and surgical procedures done to decrease future risks of cancer. There are options that can decrease your chances by 5-10 percent. You don’t have to wait to get cancer.”

In 2001, Brown went to her family doctor for a lumpectomy. Though abnormal cells were present, they weren’t cancerous. Brown later had genetic screening done.

“We found our family was positive with the BRCA I gene, where there’s a 90 percent chance persons in our family will have breast and ovarian cancers.”

Three years later, around January, Brown said she felt a funny pain in her arm while lying down.  Brown said she heard the Lord say, “check your breast.”

“Right then I felt a lump,” Brown said. “When I went for my second mammogram I had a biopsy done in February. My husband, who is a doctor, revealed to me I had had cancer.”

Brown later underwent eight chemotherapy treatments and seven weeks of radiation. Her family and coworkers at Wallace Community College were extremely supportive.

Though it seemed like the tragedy of cancer wouldn’t end for Brown and her family, Brown found hope and survived. Brown, program director for licensed practical nursing and nurse assisting at Wallace, has been married to her husband Dr. Edgar Brown, M.D., for 27 years and has two children Tiffany and Trey.