Breast cancer survivor, daughter speak

Amy Szabo

The one thing that seemed to have kept Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett together during her journey with cancer was her upbeat mood.

“When people have brain cancer, they don’t look at you and go ‘what lobe?’ They don’t just stare at your head. When you have breast cancer they just stare right at your breasts and go ‘which one?'” Brett said.

Brett spoke about breast cancer awareness at Kent State yesterday with her daughter, Gabrielle Brett. Regina was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, and her daughter discovered she had the same genetic mutation in her cells in 2001. Both had their breasts removed to make sure there would be no future chance of cancer.

Before she underwent the surgery, when she first discovered she had the cancer, she had to go through a series of chemotherapy.

“It was a little weird, ’cause on Friday you have hair, and on Monday you’re bald,” she said about losing her hair to chemotherapy. “It’s not like Britney Spears where it’s like, ‘hey, I just wanted to shave my head.'”

Still, many times throughout the speech Brett became serious when talking about her beliefs.

“It’s so frightening,” she said. “The first time you hear the word ‘cancer’ it’s like you take a game you’re playing, like the game of life, and the word cancer kind of tosses it in the air, and all the pieces go flying.”

She repeatedly urged the women over 40 in the crowd to do a breast self-exam once a month. She said it was the number one thing for people to do about breast cancer.

“Life is worth whatever you have to do to fight to save it,” Brett said.

Brett said that for her, there is nothing more precious than life.

Her daughter agreed with her and expressed her own belief about being preemptive in searching for breast cancer.

“It’s just a body. It’s not about appearance. Appearance is so overrated,” Gabrielle said about why some women waited so long to make the decision to have their breasts removed. She said that saving her life was more important than how the world viewed her.

“I’ve seen my mom, how well she’s sort of lived without breasts,” she said. “I really don’t want reconstruction.”

Both Brett and her daughter came to the speech without prosthetics.

Freshman photojournalism major Monica Maschak came to the speech for extra credit but left with the goal of reading their stories.

“It really touched me,” Maschak said. “I thought it was very informative.”

Contact College of Communications and Information reporter Amy Szabo [email protected].