Beating breast cancer

Mary Catherine Brown was still in a good mood after returning home from a Mizzou basketball game victory, so after the long drive, she was confused when her mom called her for a family meeting. Her mom, Allison Brown, told her family the shocking news she received that day: she had been diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. Alison received surgery the following week and started treatment soon after.

“I never would have expected anything like this to happen,” Mary Catherine, senior, said. “She’s my mom. Nothing was ever supposed to happen to her.”

Allison received two surgeries after her initial diagnosis, then started six rounds of chemotherapy January 2015. During chemotherapy treatments, she lost her hair and started wearing wigs.

“I felt good during chemo,” Allison said. “I was a little tired, but I wasn’t sick. Most women are traumatized when they lose their hair during chemotherapy, but I saw it as a sign of the chemotherapy working. I knew that it was just hair and that it would grow back.”

After chemotherapy the doctors at St. Luke’s had Allison start her 33-day radiation treatment over the summer. Sarah Brown, sophomore, said her mom did not take the radiation as well as the chemotherapy. Allison said it burned her skin and made her feel sick, but during this time she said she received an overwhelming amount of support from Kirkwood residents.

“The most important thing that got me through [treatment] was the Kirkwood community,” Allison said. “All of the cards, the texts, the dinners, the notes and the rides really helped. You just forget about yourself, and you are so thankful for other people and for friendship and the giving spirit of others. That’s what makes Kirkwood a great place to live, the support that we give to each other.”

Untitled InfographicAllison teaches fourth grade at Keysor elementary and said she received an incredible amount of support from her fellow teachers and students while going through treatment. She has been working half days in the morning this year but looks forward to starting full days again at the beginning of October.

“[My work friends] were the first to know about my diagnosis,” Allison said. “They are awesome people I knew I could trust and would understand my position. Not being able to teach while going through treatment was hard. I could not wait to get back with the students and my teammates; they are like family.”

The support for Allison was also visible at Sarah and Mary Catherine’s annual Dig Pink volleyball game at KHS. This year, the team shirts said “Dig Brown” in support of Allison and the Brown family at the volleyball game Oct. 6.

“I was so honored to be able to sit on the bench during the game,” Allison said. “And I am so proud to be Mary Catherine and Sarah’s mom. They never left my side when I was going through treatment. Sarah slept by my side for 10 months. My whole family was always with me.”

Allison said she is still not feeling 100 percent yet, but she is cancer free. She said she may not have achieved these results had she not taken a mammogram last November. She had a mammogram appointment scheduled, but when her husband’s father had a stroke, she pushed her appointment off two weeks later so she could help take care of him. If Allison had not gone to the mammogram two weeks late, Mary Catherine said the doctors told her mom they would not have found the cancer until her next mammogram and it could have been a lot worse.

“If you have a mother and she has not gotten a mammogram, tell her to get one,” Allison said. “Mammograms can detect [breast cancer] and help you survive. Getting a mammogram helped save my life.”