Two-Time Cancer Survivor Overcomes Life ChallengesMar 08, 2021 08:00AM ● By Candice Stewart
Two-time cancer survivor, Maisie Brown one month after her second surgery.
Cancer is not a death sentence. This statement rings true for Maisie Brown, a two-time cancer survivor from Jamaica who has survived breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
“In 2014, when I was 40, about March or April, I felt a lump in my right breast and I ignored it because I was going through so much at that time,” Brown told FunTimes Magazine in a recent interview
“Months passed, and it wasn’t until August that I told my eldest daughter, Lacey. No one else knew and she encouraged me to visit my primary care physician who then referred me to a specialist.”
Brown shared that during her visit with the specialist, she saw on his face that something was wrong.
He scheduled an urgent biopsy, and in the space of a week, the results were back. It revealed a cancerous lump.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. A mastectomy was scheduled for the following day,” Brown told FunTimes Magazine.
Brown explained that she was going through a financial crisis, with great concern about bills and raising her youngest daughter. A ridiculously high medical bill by way of her diagnosis was not factored into her ability to cope.
However, she found a way even after struggling with the news and process.
“I was in shock, I was devastated and I cried constantly. No one outside of my family knew about my ordeal,” Brown shared.
“I started to think about my body and how it was going to change my lifestyle and mental capacity,” said Brown, who added, “as females, our breasts are part of what makes us beautiful, so when the negativity started to come and I struggled to look at myself as beautiful because of this situation.”
Brown did her research and leaned on other people with similar diagnoses for support.
“I tried to find the strength in that little community,” she said, “but it was not enough at the time.”
She continued, “I was in a relationship and I ended it because I wasn’t feeling like I would be accepted in my new state. That was me, I pushed people away.”
Despite her struggles, Brown credits her family for their 24/7 support.
With a tribe inclusive of 10 brothers, one sister, and a host of nieces and nephews, she was not short on love and all the support she could ask for.
After a while, Brown shared her diagnosis with her work team and other people she engaged with on a daily basis. Much to her surprise, her support system expanded exponentially.
Lifestyle changes; Food and Exercise
After surgery, Brown cut out rice, flour, and bread from her diet. She now eats mostly fruits, vegetables, and chicken breast.
She has diversified her meals with her new diet and restrictions and she boasts that her meals are never boring.
“If I had known that the healthy meals I now eat were so delicious, my diet would’ve changed a long time ago,” she shared with FunTimes Magazine.
“I blend everything that I drink,” she continued.
Brown makes shakes and smoothies with ingredients such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts; that is now her way of living.
“It’s expensive but when I look at it, I tell myself that if I want to preserve my life, I have to do this.”
Brown said that she worked out in the gym before the pandemic but she now exercises at home through YouTube.
A will to live
“What prompted my will to live was when I looked at my family. My two girls, especially; they’re the ones who gave me the energy to fight this thing,” Brown told FunTimes.
She continued, “I just woke up one day and told myself that I can live. When I visited the hospital and I saw people going through similar struggles, they looked nothing like me and most did not have the support I continue to receive.”
“I did eight cycles of chemotherapy and 25 units of radiation therapy. After I finished my treatment, I was officially declared cancer free in 2015. I was being monitored, and in that same year, I was given a tablet called tamoxifen, which is given to persons who have not reached menopause. It also helps to prevent the cancer from coming back. You take it for five years,” she told FunTimes.
It appeared that life was getting back to normal for Brown.
In September 2017, her older daughter passed away after an epileptic attack.
“She was diagnosed with epilepsy in grade 10 and died when she was 24,” said Brown, who added that she felt lost and broken after her daughter’s death.
Though that void remains, she makes the conscious effort on a daily basis to live in the moment and remember her daughter in happy moments.
Additionally, her younger daughter is ever present in her life, and they both love on each other even more since Lacey’s passing.
In 2018/2019, Brown found herself spotting before her period. It was consistent and constant which concerned her.
She visited her gynaecologist who did a biopsy on her uterus which revealed that Brown had stage B1 endometrial cancer. It appeared as though the pill she was given in 2015 contributed to this phenomenon. It was removed from her regimen.
“I did a surgery shortly after to remove my womb,” she said.
“The existential doom and gloom resurfaced, but it didn’t last long. I was reminded of my strength to live. My fear was possibly doing chemotherapy again. I decided that if it came to it, I would decline,” Brown told FunTimes.
She did not have to worry, as she was declared cancer free and continues to be.
On this International Women's Day, Maisie Brown and women like her deserve recognition and continued support as they go through life refusing to be victims.
This two-time cancer survivor and woman of power uses every opportunity to share her story and encourage those currently going through cancer treatment.
She is, in some way, classified as a guidance counsellor for cancer patients.
“I’m part of a foundation that helps survivors of cancer in various ways, inclusive with the provision of breast prosthetics. It’s called the Icilyn Wallace Cancer Foundation. I joined because I believe I have a lot to give back to society, to persons who are suffering from breast cancer. Not everyone has the support that I had,” she explained.
Brown is humble and a lover of life who smiles at her storms. Her tips to maintain good health while during treatment and without treatment include the following:
Eat in moderation. Too much of anything is never good
Pay attention to your body
Don’t give into stress
Take your multivitamins
If even for five minutes a day, engage in some form of physical exercise
She holds an MA in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a BSc. in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Follow her blog at thesuburbangirl.com where she shares stories and life lessons through real-life experiences.