Tricia Brown sent me an email in early March asking me about a braiding solution for her hair. As Tricia explained it, she was in training to walk in a very challenging long walk for breast cancer sponsored by Avon and she would not have a chance to deal with her hair during her trek for cancer.
I answered Tricia's original email about braiding ideas and an email correspondence blossomed between us. I was interested in Tricia's obvious commitment to raising funds for cancer.
Those who know me personally know that I lost my father to cancer. I also lost one of my best friends to breast cancer. My beautiful, vibrant, full of life friend Judy not only lost all of her thick gorgeous auburn hair to breast cancer in the late 80s. She eventually lost her life, never getting to have the children she longed for or growing old with her beloved husband Steve.
My friend Bevy is currently fighting breast cancer and her bravery is daunting and so inspirational to me.
I told Tricia in email that I wanted to do my part to help. So I promised a financial pledge to Tricia and I also promised to advertise Tricia's mission and her own personal fight against cancer.
In this first article Tricia shares her with Hair Boutique her journey with cancer. This is the first of additional articles that we will have about and by Tricia.
The Hair Boutique is supporting Tricia by donating 10% of ALL net profits made in the Hair Boutique Marketplace between May 1st and May 31st, 2000. We are also going to be supporting Tricia in her efforts as she moves towards the walk date in October.
The Hair Boutique encourages you to support the fight against breast cancer in you own personal way. If you would like to help Tricia, you may contact her by email at: Tricia@ Hairboutique.com for more information or to make a pledge towards her walk.
One thing came to mind when I started writing this - then a hundred different things came to mind.
Have you ever wondered what wedding vows really mean? Particularly the part when they say in sickness and in health, till death do us part? Just stop for one moment and think about it. It doesn't matter if you are married or not - just what do you think it really means?
When you think of in sickness many of us will think of the common cold or the flu. Maybe some will think of things such as strep throat, bronchitis, asthma, or maybe joint pain.
Maybe old age and the sicknesses that comes with that particularly arthritis. Some of us who may have an uncle or aunt who has Parkinson's disease will flash in our minds. When you think of in health we take if for exactly that being healthy.
What about till death do us part? Most of us will say when a spouse dies.
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions just different responses that many of us would not normally think of or at least I didn't when I said my wedding vows.
I never thought of heart attacks, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis or Cancer in any form. I was like many of you, I thought of sickness and in health as being in general.
Its funny you never really pay attention to all the sicknesses or diseases that go on in the world until it comes knocking on your door.
It walks right on in without waiting for an answer.
You only then begin to really listen and notice that your not alone. You all of a sudden find that each channel that you turn to on television or newspaper is covering what your going through. You think to yourself, how did I miss all this information.
But what is most amazing is the conversations we have a work, PTA meetings, family get togethers - then is when the real information comes out. Then and only then does it finally sink in that your life is no different than anyone else. You heard everything that was going on, read all the paper, watched all the programs but before it didn't affect you and now it does. It really is ironic.
Cancer Knocked On Our Door
So of course, when Cancer knocked on our door and came on in, in 1996 it knocked both of us off our feet and directly onto our butts. We had already suffered a major blow months before with the loss of our first child. So when this hit us the only question was which one of us was going to get up first and come out fighting?
When my husband, Eddie first noticed the small pimple on his scalp it was just a nuisance. He thought, it was just a sore blemish that would go away. It didn't. By the time he actually went to a doctor to have it checked out it was the size of a silver dollar and had pushed his hairline back.
The area was biopsied and tests results came back as being a possibly lymphoma. Cancer.
I really didn't believe it and to be honest sometimes now I still don't believe it even though his oncologist 3 years later would confirm the findings. You never really think just how powerful six letters can change a relationship and a person's outlook on life.
Having A Will To Live & Fight Back
His will to live was gone and my will to keep him fighting just grew stronger. I became angry not just at him for giving up but with a disease that I couldn't fight. It was trying to take him away from me and I wasn't willing to give him up.
After having a series of tests, they all came back clear. We thought it was just a scare and we breathed an air of relief. So when he was diagnosed again in 1998 only two years later, I thought to myself how much more can he stand? I knew that I could get through it or at least I prayed that I could. But this time was different somehow. His will to live and my determination to keep him with me were stronger.
I admit there were more than my share of times when I got impatient and tired of hearing "I don't feel well". But what else was he supposed to say. The man was hurting. He had three tumors on the left side of his body, one in his shoulder, thigh and the largest of the three in his pelvis. But the cancer was greedy it spread to his bone marrow. I'm jumping ahead of myself a little.
I have been asked hundreds of times how did we know that he had cancer? Were there any signs? For him it was pain. Just one day he started complaining about having pain in his hip. At first we thought he had just pulled something while exercising so he took it easy and the pain went away.
But when he continued to exercise and the pain returned, we got somewhat concerned but again it went away as quickly as it came. The problem really started when the pain didn't go away and intensified. It seemed that he was hurting all the time - sitting, standing, walking, lying down - over the counter medication wasn't helping.
Dealing With The Pain
One night while we were in bed, he simply stated to me that he wished that he could just have five minutes without pain. It tore at my heart to hear that. It's ironic what we take for granted. We go on and on when we stub our toe or bang our knees or our stomachs hurt but the pain goes away and we forget about it - like it never existed. Here was a man just asking for five minutes - five minutes to be pain free. I wanted to cry but I knew I couldn't. I couldn't let him see the vulnerability - I had to be strong if not for me then especially for him.
When he finally saw a specialist and we had the area biopsied - I wasn't afraid when the doctor came out to tell me the results. I will never forget the look in the doctor's eyes. There was actual tears. I'm thinking, o.k. whatever it is we will get through it together. So when the doctor said that it was definitely cancer - I don't think fear even entered my mind. I had a strong faith and I believed that God would have prepared me for losing Eddie. It was then that we were referred to his oncologist, Dr. Linda Danieu.
Chemotherapy & Complications
Hydrocodone became Eddie's best friend. I thought finally he will get some relief but it only masked the pain slightly. When he started the chemotherapy - even though Dr. Danieu had told us all about it; I still never imagined that it would be so time consuming. For two of his infusions it was simple. Or at least I thought it was simple, just an IV in his arm and two to three hours later he was ready for me or his father to take him home.
The rest of his infusions would be harder. He would have to have spinal taps prior to the IV in his arm. I wanted to be with him, to hold his hand and let him know that I was there and would not let anyone harm him each time he had a spinal tap but they said I had to wait in the hall. Out in the hall, I paced and smiled as nurses passed by and as patients came and went.
When he had his first spinal tap, the nurse who was assisting the doctor kept running in and out of his room. It was then I began to panic. At one point I stopped her and asked if everything was o.k. She assured me he was and ran back in. An hour or so passed and both the nurse and the Dr. Danieu came out and told me I could go in.
He was lying on his back. When I asked what had happened and how he was doing, he said "fine", that she had trouble getting it into his spine. I was angry that they were poking and prodding him but I was also grateful that at least the doctor was doing it and she had the sense to make sure it was done right than any old kind of way.
Eddie's veins had started to collapse when he would go in for infusions making it difficult for them to administer the drugs. There were many times they would have to warm his arm or massage the area in order to get the vein to sit up. No sooner would they start then the vein would collapse and they would have to try another arm. Eddie was a trouper. He would say that he was tired of going and that he wasn't going anymore - but we both knew that was fatigue talking.
We Lost Our Hair Together
His hair fell out and he was so self-conscious. Even though he could wear hats, he still was uncomfortable going out. He thought people would stare.
I felt bad for him and I wanted to do something to help him feel more at ease with his new look so without telling him, I went to the hairdressers and told her to cut my hair.
Eddie knew how important my letting my hair grow was to me. My hair always took so long to grow and it had finally gotten a little past my shoulders when all his hair fell out.
So I thought - we will grow our hair back together. When I came home and he saw that I had cut my hair very short, he asked me why? I told him this way we could grow our hair back together!
Needless to say his grew back shortly after he finished the chemotherapy and mine - well let's just say by our 10th wedding anniversary my hair will finally be where it was before I cut it. It's just hair right?
Remission - A Time To Celebrate
When he finally finished the chemotherapy, our next step would be radiation. Our hopes as well as the doctor's was that we had gotten all the cancer. Our goal was to get through this and then go back to our original plan to have children. Later we would find out that we would not be able to have children because of the cancer.
Eddie started radiation treatment right before Thanksgiving and finished shortly after Christmas. When he took what would thought would be his final Galium Scan (a Galium scan is a full bodied scan. It enables the doctors to see anything foreign in the body such as cancer.) - we were told that he was cancer free.
He was in remission. It was time to celebrate. Although he would be closely monitored over the next two years, his and my quality of life would start to change.
Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day
One morning while driving into work I was listening to my favorite radio station when I heard the ad about the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day. I thought here was my chance to do something for him.
O.K. so what he didn't have breast cancer he had non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma but he was a survivor of cancer.
I began thinking if my walking for three days might help bring about an awareness and a cure then I was all for it.
I remember sitting down at my computer a couple of nights later to register for the walk when I saw the $1,800.00 requirement.
I sat back defeated before I got started. I called out to Eddie to come into the computer room. I showed him what I was looking at and shook my head and said there was not way I was going to be able to do it.
Determined To Raise Money For Cancer
I had too much trouble just raising money for an AIDS walk how was I going to raise $1,800.00 for Breast Cancer? I wanted so badly to do this for him. I knew I could never understand what having cancer was all about besides seeing someone that you love go through something so painful.
Being helpless, unable to do anything to stop the pain. Now I had an opportunity in front of me to help others become more aware of cancer and how it affects a person's life not mention raise money for cancer research.
I needed to express my concerns with someone other than Eddie. He was behind me if I wanted to do it but I was also thinking of it financially. Financially we were strapped. We had spent so much money towards scans and radiographs, traveling up and down the road to and from the doctor and the hospital. Then we just had our living expenses which were adding up. Eddie was unable to work and his health insurance was running out. I had just lost my job when all this happened and even though I was working now - it was still difficult.
I couldn't put in the balance of the money if I couldn't raise the $1,800.00. After talking with a co-worker - I made the phone call right then and there. Out of all the walks that I have been on, I had practically had to get down on my knees and beg people to sponsor me. People tend to forget how much this disease has affected and will affect thousands of peoples lives.
Eddie Offered To Help Train
The doctor had forbidden Eddie from exercise for a while so that his bone could grow back and get stronger. But it was Eddie who told me that he would train with me for this 60 mile walk. Even though I had, had three knee surgeries on one knee and when ever I exercised or did anything rigorous I always had pain.
Seeing Eddie get out there with me gave me the strength I needed in order to keep going.
Now all I had to do was raise $1,800.00 and I would be set but how was I going to do that. Everyone I knew when I mentioned the walk questioned my ability to complete such a walk.
Breast Cancer - A Major Killer
Many of them didn't know that 175,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That more than 42,000 will die.
I didn't know until I had signed up for the walk that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 40 to 55.
When I told my Mother and sister that currently one million women in the United States have the disease, but don't know it and that they will probably won't know about this potentially fatal illness for another five to eight years all they could do was shake their heads.
A Campaign of Email, Letters & Phone Calls
So I started writing every co-worker, family member, friend and enemy, previous employers, all of Eddie's doctors, hairdressers, nail and full bodied salons asking them to sponsor me for this walk.
I told them when the walk would take place (the weekend of October 13), and I how far I would be walking (60 miles from Bear Mountain to Manhattan). Later I would find out that 4,200 women and men would be participating in this walk.
Some of my fellow co-workers wrote me a check within the first two weeks after I told them about it. Everyone kept asking did I think I was going to be able to do it. I had to.I had to because it wasn't just about me as a woman but it was about thousands of Americans each year. I had to for all the Eddie's that didn't have someone to fight for them and with them. He had been through so much, this was my opportunity to do something for him.
Getting Ready To Do The Walk
The next thing I realized is that I had cut my hair and even though it was growing back, it wouldn't be long enough for me to pull it back into a ponytail. After talking with my hairdresser, I chose a hairstyle that I thought would be practical and maybe even will look nice on me.
Braids. I use to have them when I was a little girl just not as many as I'm planning on getting. Eddie says it doesn't matter to him what my hair looks like - he loves me just for me. I thought that was sweet but it wouldn't do me any good out in the middle of Bear Mountain National Park scaring away all the animals and possibly the walkers when I woke up. I'm looking forward to May 18th when I get my trial braids. Then in October I'll have them put back in again.
Cancer Is Back
Our lives were just getting back to normal when a few weeks ago the pain returned to Eddie's hip. He started taking tests over again to find out if the cancer has returned for a third time, he finally said the other day to me that he's scared.
I can't tell him just how scared I am or how all of this is affecting me. So each day we take it as it comes. I feel blessed just knowing that he is here to argue with and to laugh with. He tells me sometimes I'm too hard on him but that's only because I love him.
Many of you will probably read this story about Eddie and I. The Hair Boutique has millions of visitors that come to the site and read all the different stories.
As all the Hair Boutique visitors will read our story I hope that it will inspire them to not take things and people for granted - to enjoy life and enjoy one another.
Life if precious and life can be short.
What I also hope is that the Hair Boutique visitors will find it in their hearts to agree to sponsor me for such a worthy and challenging cause.
By walking so far I will be doing something big - something that would challenge me as much as breast cancer challenges millions of women in the U.S. I hope that many will share this incredible adventure with me by supporting me in my fundraising efforts.
I also hope you will pray for Eddie and I as we again muster our courage to fight our next round of cancer. I also want to thank all of your for letting me share Eddie and my story with you.
Pledging Money For The Walk
How can one sponsor you as a walker? By agreeing to sponsor walkers like myself.
The New York Pledge Forms can be picked up on the Net. To get the proper Pledge Card Form for Tricia click on: New York Pledge Form (PDF) Be sure to add her name to the form as Tricia Brown, Walker ID# 3373N.
You can also pick up a sponsor pledge forms at the Hair Boutique by sending email to: Tricia@hairboutique.com.
If you prefer to receive a snail mail form, send a request for a pledge form to:
Ms. Tricia Brown c/o Drew University Alumni/ae House, Rm. 317 36 Madison Avenue Madison, NJ 07940 USA
Hair Boutique Note: After you have submitted your pledge form please send an email to Tricia@hairboutique.com so she can track your pledge through the system and send you a thank you.