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A long and trying struggle
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 Lee Ann Brown had always been a healthy woman - only taking a pain reliever once or twice a year - until this April.

Brown never missed her regularly scheduled mammogram, but the one she had in October of 2006 found no trace of breast cancer. This April, she discovered a small lump while performing her monthly self-exam.

Biopsy results returned within 24 hours revealed the lump was cancerous - infiltrating ductal carcinoma.

"Which my doctor swore it wasn't going to be because I was so healthy," Brown said.

She received the feared call while working at United Community Bank in Covington. Two of her daughters were at her desk at the time.

"I stayed at work that day because I needed the people around me - I couldn't come home and sit alone," Brown said. "I needed the activity."

Brown, a 46-year-old mother of three teenage daughters, soon had a lumpectomy which revealed floating cells. Her doctors told her the breast would need to be removed.

She and her husband decided it would be best to proceed with a double mastectomy.

"I just didn't want to worry about the other one and go through everything I have again," Brown said.

In June, Brown started her eight chemotherapy treatments and had to take medical leave from her job.

"The first four were really, really rough," Brown said, "I was in the hospital for eight days at a time."

She began to lose all of the hair on her head, arms and legs and even her eyebrows.

"That's the thing I dreaded the most, and I think a lot of women dread the most, was losing the hair," Brown said. "But I guess it's sort of a good thing because you don't feel well enough to take care of it anyway."

She said if she had known exactly how the chemotherapy treatments would make her physically feel, she would have dreaded it more than losing her hair.

While receiving the treatments Brown had to stay seated for four to five hours at a time. The doses would leave her nauseous and weak - at times too weak to even hold a phone to her ear.

During her treatments co-workers brought her family meals and her husband and daughters provided the emotional support she needed.

"They were OK because I was strong," Brown said. "If I was crying all the time and saying I was hurting, then it would have been bad for them."

Brown finished her last treatment in September and said although she is still weak, she can feel her strength returning slowly each day.

She hopes to return to work early next year and is anxious once again to be able to do simple activities such as vacuum and feel hungry enough to finish an entire meal.

Once she is fully recovered, she wants to join a support group for cancer survivors as well as participate in the 2008 Newton County Relay for Life.

She offered this advice to those undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

"A lot of people quit chemo because they can't take it," Brown said, "but they need to because it works."