The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NW breast cancer tree honors survivors, loved ones

By Edna Horton/nw news editor

The names of breast cancer survivors and those who have lost loved ones to the disease were remembered in a fundraiser on NW Campus.

Each name was placed on a leaf that became part of the tree. Some leaves displayed messages.

One read: “Jolene pulls the best pint of Guinness ever.”

Another one is a message to a friend: “Pat, my marathon friend and mentor. I still run like a Kenyan.”

Evette Brazzile, NW Campus director of health and DSS, started the tree three years ago as a tribute to her mother, Inette Kirkpatrick, who was a survivor. Brazzile wanted to make a display of names that people could contribute somewhere on campus.

“The project stemmed in honor of her,” she said. “We had similar things in the past, but I thought why not make it a tree. A tree implies life.”

Tracy Williams, NW coordinator of career and employment services, listed the name of her aunt, Margie Thompson, who contracted breast cancer in 1990 and died later of other causes. Williams called her aunt a pioneer since at that time some of today’s resources were not available. Williams remembered how difficult the disease became for Thompson, including how Thompson lost her hair.

Williams’ mother helped her aunt cope with the illness.

“She deserves to be remembered for what she went through,” she said.

Teresa Williams, a NW Campus student, contributed the name of her friend Dawn, who is a survivor. Williams taught a dance class off campus, and Dawn was one of her students.

While a student in Williams’ class, Dawn became sick with cancer. Williams said Dawn was inspiring and always had a smile on her face. She ended up having a double mastectomy, but even that didn’t stop her.

“There were days when you could tell she was hurting,” she said. “But she didn’t want anyone to know. She just kept smiling.”

Chelsea Moore, senior secretary of health and DSS, offered the name of Rebecca Staats, a senior secretary in NW Campus media services.

Staats said she is a survivor whose cancer was caught early enough that she did not need chemotherapy, but she did have a mastectomy.

Staats said early detection was pivotal in her treatment and recovery. She started to schedule routine mammograms when she was 40 and suggests everyone do the same.

“I encourage all ladies to go get your mammogram,” she said.

“I went in for a routine mammogram and thought, ‘eh, no big deal.’ I was 44 and still pretty much bullet-proof.”

Staats said her mammogram came back with what looked like specks of pepper. Her cancer was enclosed in the ducts of her breast, a form of cancer called ductal carcinoma. She said the only remedy was a mastectomy.

“You can go in and you can try and remove a lump, but you can’t really go in and try and get little pepper flecks that might be cancerous throughout the breast,” she said.

Staats said it was more shocking than scary. She was a single mother of two teenagers and didn’t really have time to get scared. Her recovery was painful but didn’t last long.

Staats had a close group of friends she calls her “ya yas” to help her throughout everything. She said they did everything from cleaning to disciplining her children.

She said that, as with everything, she tries to look for the lessons she can learn.

She said just a few months before her diagnosis, she had greatly improved her health by becoming a non-smoker and eating right.

“I’ve certainly been much more interested and aware of my exercise habits, my drinking habits, smoking habits and eating habits. God only gives us one body, and we should take care of it,” she said.

Staats celebrated her five-year anniversary of being cancer-free Oct. 28. She said looking back, it all seems surreal, but if she could go back, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’ve had such blessings that followed my experience,” she said. “It’s amazing — a much happier life than I have ever had before.”

For every leaf donated to the tree, an anonymous donor gave $5-$10 to the American Cancer Society.

The tree is displayed in WSTU across from the bookstore in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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