Tags: Featured Story, Health
When Charlotte Brandt woke up on a winter day in January 2006, she didn’t realize that this would become a day to mark a new pathway for her life. That is the day she found a lump in her breast. After a few tests, she learned she had breast cancer, stage 2B. With no family history of this disease, her diagnosis came out of nowhere and changed her life forever. Seven years later after successful treatments, she can call herself a “survivor.”
“You never dream it’s going to happen to you,” she said. “And, then mortality rears its ugly head, and it really makes you reorder your priorities.”
Now as a survivor, Charlotte provides support and friendship to other cancer patients who are recently diagnosed. She has also become an active volunteer for Links for Life, a local non-profit that benefits people and families affected by breast cancer.
“God has a plan for me to use me in this way. I hopefully am able to impart encouragement and prayer to other women going through it,” she says. “I love being able to give back and help and give someone support.”
Charlotte and her husband of 46 years, Bob, grew up in Bakersfield and raised their two children in this community. Because of their love for this town, they found Links for Life particularly unique, because 100 percent of the money raised stays local. After volunteering for various events, Charlotte helped establish the Links for Life Legacy Endowment Committee with a $5,000,000 goal.
“We are excited to have Charlotte as one of the leading forces of the Legacy Endowment for Links for Life. The Legacy Endowment’s goal is to raise five million dollars, which will underwrite all of our day-to-day operations, allowing every fundraised dollar to go directly back into programs and services for the community,” says Jennifer Henry, executive director of Links for Life. “Charlotte’s great compassion for other women facing breast cancer and passion for Links for Life is a true inspiration to all who know her. We are very blessed to have her as part of our volunteer team.”
Charlotte and Bob had been “spoiled” with no real major trauma to deal with until her diagnosis. Looking back over the last seven years, she can say with no equivocation, “Our marriage is stronger. Fighting a battle brought us closer together and closer to our faith. My faith in God has grown exponentially because of it.”
In 2006, with her family and many friends by her side, she started her treatment plan. She had a lumpectomy at the Revlon Breast Center at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Because her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, she also had chemotherapy and radiation treatments at Central California Blood and Cancer Center (CBCC) in Bakersfield.
Charlotte was a registered nurse who had practiced for 39 years. With her expertise, she was much more knowledgeable about the clinical side of her treatments. She also took solace that there was so much research and statistical expectedness about breast cancer’s progression and outcomes. “It’s comforting as a patient to have a doctor that has predictability from a zillion studies,” she says. “These doctors are so well dialed in because of the amount of money that has been given to breast cancer research, and it has really helped to boost success rates.”
Charlotte said the hardest part of her journey was the time that elapsed between diagnosis and planning her treatment. “Waiting is the hardest part,” she says. “You know the cancer has already gotten from point A to point B, and who knows how far it will go from point B? When you’re first diagnosed, you just want it out of your body.”
“Once you get a plan, and you have A, B, and C figured out, you can begin your journey. You can put one foot in front of the other,” she says.
When doctors told her she was cancer free, Charlotte decided to embark on a healthier way of life to decrease her chances of recurrence, so she lost 50 pounds. “I want to see my grandkids grow up. I needed to be healthier to be able to do that,” she says. “My life depends on it. Now I have a better chance of living a long time.”
For more information on breast cancer, please visit www.cancer.org and www.linksforlife.org.