Brenda Nelson



Pink Lights 

Before I begin, I would like to explain my title, “Pink Lights” …I recently read a book by Mathew McConaughey called Green Lights. In his book, he explains it is when he feels doors were opened for him. Similarly, I will use the term in my story to show when my Heavenly Father intervened on my behalf.

I am the mother of three amazing children, Lauren, Walker, and Mason. Lauren, our daughter, is married to her husband, Qortney. She is a teacher, he is an attorney, and they live in Wisconsin. Walker recently graduated from Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, on a golf scholarship. Mason is our 15-year-old who loves flying planes, running track, golfing, and anything that comes with wearing cowboy boots. My husband, Mark, has been my partner for over 22 years and is a wonderful husband, father, and great golfer. I am also the daughter of two amazing parents, Richard and Lydia Gaitan, from Plainview, Texas. I have five siblings, four sisters, and one brother. I’m the youngest of the girls. Our dad passed away recently. I was a Daddy’s girl, and he was excited about me sharing my story to help others. I am also a Registered Nurse.

Many years ago, my doctor told me I had dense breast tissue and would need yearly diagnostic mammograms. For those who do not know what that is, it is a mammogram with a physician readily available to read the results. Every year, the doctor would walk in and say, “Everything looks good; see you next year!” To my heart’s delight, I was relieved but thought this was silly. Our family has no history of Cancer, and I do many things to stay healthy. 

My husband and I were living our best life. We had recently moved back to Texas, and we were excited to be back. Texas is home. We had spent the last six years in the Midwest, and we were excited about the opportunity to be home. Mark had landed a dream job, and we were thrilled about enjoying family, the warm sun, and, of course, tacos. (pink light) After a busy season of moving, getting Mason settled in his new school, and our daughter marrying her happily ever after, I experienced a few nights in a row of chest pain. It felt like pressure, nothing too bad, but it woke me up, and the second night I was concerned enough and asked my husband to drive me to the ER. While at the ER, the doctor decided to run labs and noticed my liver enzymes were slightly elevated. He said it might be a fatty liver, but to follow up with my primary, other labs showed that this chest pain was not cardiac-related. The doctor then decided to scan my gallbladder before he released me home to be sure I didn’t have gallbladder issues. (Pink light) 

During the scan, they saw that my liver was covered in nodules. That’s when everything happened fast, but at the same time, not fast enough. I was quickly sent for a CT scan and, later, a biopsy. The ER doctor told me he felt this was Cancer; he did not know what type, and he was deeply sorry to have to give me the news. I told him I was strong in my faith. I didn’t know what was happening but knew the One who did. We would trust in Him, and I would appreciate any prayers. 

To make a long story short, soon after, MD Anderson accepted me as a patient (pink light), and on October 3, at my first appointment, the process of tests began. I met with the Liver oncologist, who told me I did not have liver cancer, but I did have breast cancer that was now attacking my liver. Moments later, a young, handsome oncologist peeked into the exam room and informed me that they would see me that same day because they were doing everything to work me into seeing the breast cancer team. (pink light, pink light). Later that day, my new breast cancer oncologist informed me of my new diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer stage 4. 

The plan was to run more tests starting with a liver scan the following morning. While I was in the scan, they called my husband and said it was a lot worse than they thought and that he needed to take me directly to MD Anderson’s “Critical Care Unit” to be admitted, and that they would be waiting on me. After my scan, we made our way through a huge MD Anderson building, trying to read signs and get there as quickly as possible. We were stopped by an older gentleman who said he was a doctor there and would personally walk us to the unit. (pink light) In the Critical Care Unit, we were told that my liver was significantly damaged, and a team was reviewing my scans to devise a plan. Shortly after getting to my room, I was introduced to a doctor and his NP. 

They explained everything they saw and what course of action we would take. My doctor stated it was critical to start treatment immediately because we were running out of time, chemo would start at 9 pm, and he and his NP would be close by to monitor everything. (pink light) He then stepped out of the room, and the NP stated, “Girl, you got the best of the best! Your doctor is over all of MD Anderson’s breast cancer unit, and he took your case!” (PINK LIGHT) I let them know I was ready to get things started. We had many prayer warriors praying for us all. (pink light) Later that night, my nurse entered the room clothed in PPE and had the chemo in hand. After she had prepared everything, she laid her hands on me and prayed a beautiful, powerful prayer over me and the therapy that would be entering my body soon. (pink light) During this entire process, I was swept with a peace I couldn’t explain, and I decided to sleep through the treatment and asked my husband and daughter to watch over me. They agreed and woke me up between treatments. I had a total of 3 bags that night. At midnight it was complete. They woke me up and said, “You did it!” I was on my way to killing Cancer. (pink light) 

I completed a total of 12 treatments of chemotherapy. There were ups and downs throughout, but my team was excited that the treatment was working and we were killing Cancer. (pink light) However, due to the Cancer’s metastasis, I was also treated with immunotherapy, and it will continue every 21 days for the rest of my life until there is a cure. Every 21 days, I go to MD Anderson for labs, MD visits, and treatment. Every three months for scans, CT, Bone, and MRI; and every four months for an echo because my treatment can weaken the heart muscles. It sounds like a lot, well it is. I went from having no diagnosis to having many diagnoses. Cancer has also caused me to have pseudo-cirrhosis of the liver, which has to be monitored closely along with breast cancer. 

My doctors tell me I am a miracle. (pink light)  I can’t express the importance of listening to your body and having your yearly mammograms. Don’t let the business of life get in the way. Today there are many treatments. Don’t let Cancer win. 

We will trust that God has a plan, and we will embrace this season. I will keep sharing my story if I can save just one person from experiencing this journey. Proverbs 3:5-6.