Fourteen-year-old Chandler Brandes was too young to understand her mother’s first breast cancer diagnosis, but at the age of two, she was instinctively responsive. At night, the toddler would creep into her mother’s room, lie down on the floor at the side of the bed then reach up and delicately grasp hands with her mother before falling asleep. Stacey Brandes drew strength from her daughter to survive breast cancer not once, but twice.
Chandler’s memories of her mother’s second breast cancer battle are much more vivid. At eight years old, she witnessed the physical attack the cancer made on her mother. She understood the pain and struggle her mother endured through surgery and chemotherapy treatment. More than the fear, however, Chandler recalls her mother’s determination to win the battle against this formidable opponent.
“My mother is always a very positive person, so even though we were all scared,” said Chandler, a freshman at South Burlington High School, “her attitude helped us through it.”
According to Chandler, cancer was never permitted as an excuse from making the mark in academics or athletics. Life was expected to carry on in as normal a fashion as possible. In fact, sharing the ordinary moments of their lives and looking toward a future with her husband, John, and their two children, gave Stacey the will to fight and ultimately beat breast cancer, a disease that claimed the lives of her mother and grandmother.
“It [cancer] brought us closer,” said Chandler, who often coaxed her mother into a walk and served up fruits and veggies to help advance her mother’s recovery. “We all took care of each other.”
Today, six years later, Chandler considers the cancer experience a “bump in the road.” Optimism is a trait she obviously inherited from her mother. “It may be hard,” admitted Chandler, “but things will always get better.”
Each year, the Brandes family commits to helping to save lives from breast cancer through participation in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a five-mile walk to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society.
“This event means a lot to my family because it is another way of fighting back and supporting all the other women and their families who are going—or have gone—through the same thing we have,” Chandler remarked. “There’s no reason anyone should go through it alone.”
To find out more about survivor activities at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on October 16, 1 p.m. at Dorset Park, or to register a team, visit www.cancer.org/stridesonline.
Source: American Cancer Society