Stacey Brooks was low risk for breast cancer: a young woman with no family history. But when she heard her friend from high school had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to examine herself more closely.
“It hit me like a punch in the face,” says Stacey. “I knew I had to check out that spot a little more and at that point I found a lump.”
Her older sister Kelly Brooks remembers receiving the phone call in September 2017. She could tell Stacey was crying and assumed something had happened to her dog.
“She was barely audible. Her first words to me were ‘Kelly, I found a lump in my breast and I think it’s breast cancer,’” says Kelly. “From the day she was born, I’ve always been her protector. I automatically went into protection mode. I realized that I had to be there for her.”
Bravery Bell a ‘sound of hope’
For Stacey, the Bravery Bell was an important symbol from early on in her cancer journey.
“Even when I was first diagnosed and I was in the waiting room, I would hear the bell and it was a sound of hope. I knew someone was having a great day and I would get there. It would make me tear up every time.”
Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was important to help Stacey through her treatment. But, at one point, she didn’t know if she would want to ring the Bravery Bell at all.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. My journey wasn’t over when I was done chemo, I don’t think it will ever be over, truly. So I was a little hesitant to really celebrate because I knew I wasn’t done. I still have some treatment to go through.”
It was a terminal cancer patient, undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer, who convinced her to ring the bell for her and for all those who couldn’t.
“She said to me, ‘I’ve seen people walk out here and not ring the bell and you need to ring it for both of us,’” says Stacey. “I rang the bell and we hugged and she was genuinely happy that I got to do that for her, too. I knew from that moment things were going to get easier. I had finished the hardest part of my journey and even though I wasn’t done, I was getting there.”
Cancer journey ‘brought our family together’
Stacey says she’s always been someone who enjoyed every moment, so her experience with cancer didn’t change that. She is, however, more aware of her body and closer to her family.
“It’s made me appreciate my family and my friends, even more than I did before,” says Stacey. “Before I had cancer, I felt like there were some moments where maybe we were taking each other for granted a little bit. And not calling as often as we should. Now, every day or every other day, I touch base with my sister. We laugh and get together and we’ve made that really important.”
Kelly agrees and wants to carry that lesson into all aspects of her life.
“I feel like we’ve conquered something so special and it’s brought our family so close together,” says Kelly. “My hope is just that we take this journey as a lesson in forgiveness, closeness and family value and we carry that through in everything we do. Making sure we just never take each other for granted.”