Brenda's Story: A Big Reason to Survive Fast-Growing Breast Cancer

Brenda Clawson-Flannigan says, “My biggest reason for getting well was my two boys.”

While taking her morning shower, Brenda noticed something terribly wrong. She looked down, and her left breast was grossly enlarged. There was no redness, no unusual marks. She remembers saying to herself, “I think I’ve got a problem here.”

Brenda says her young sons “didn’t know what mommy had. They knew mommy had a boo-boo, but they didn’t know the word ‘cancer.’ They didn’t understand what it was.”

When Thomas A. Heck, MD of Gem City Surgeons, saw Brenda, he was very concerned that she could have inflammatory breast cancer.

Brenda remembers that when Dr. Heck asked if she had time to stay for a biopsy, she replied, “Dr. Heck, every minute that I have right now is for you.”

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, fast-growing breast cancer that requires immediate treatment. Brenda’s biopsy confirmed that she had cancer.

“It’s difficult,” says Dr. Heck, “telling them this horrible news, but we are going to outline a plan, and we’re going to be aggressive, and we’re going to treat this.”

Within days, Brenda started chemotherapy treatment at Good Samaritan North Health Center (Miami Valley Hospital North as of July 23, 2018). “I wanted that treatment. I put on my calendar the date, the soonest date possible I could have my surgery,” she recalls.

Ann Lensch, BSN, MS, RN, breast cancer coordinator, was there to provide the support and education Brenda needed. “It was very hard at first for them to even imagine that this could be happening,” Ann says.

“Ann made me feel like a human being, not like a patient – like a mom that was going through this,” Brenda says.

After six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and 35 rounds of radiation therapy, Brenda’s cancer is now in remission. It’s not defining her personality anymore.

“My name is Brenda Clawson-Flannigan,” she states. “I’m 42 years old, and I’m an inflammatory breast cancer survivor."