There are angels among us, and we have one walking, living and breathing in our community.
One of the angels in our community is Shae Brown. She lives in Shiner with her family and works in Nixon as a dental hygienist.
Shae’s story is about a person who has overcome tragic illnesses, great grief, unrelenting physical setbacks—yet has carried on her life with unsurpassed dignity, gratitude and a resolve of determination and hope that makes her an inspiration to all on this Thanksgiving holiday. Hers is a story of triumph over adversity, resolve over hopelessness, and determination over undaunting challenges. This is her story of hope for all of us.
Shae has had at least three bouts of cancer at various points in her life—the first at the age of 16. She has had a pacemaker in her heart following a second surgery for cancer. Then the pacemaker failed and she had to have a heart transplant. Her cancer has returned and now she is undergoing chemotherapy treatments again. She survived all of this, and one would think she might be overwhelmed, sad, hopeless and defeated by all of these setbacks.
How has she handled it? She ran a marathon in the Shiner Beer Run this past weekend.
“I have had a very challenging life—that’s true,” Brown said a few weeks ago in her office in Nixon. “But I believe in a higher power and that God has a plan for all of us. He made my plan different than whatever I dreamed it would be, but it was His plan and I was and am willing to accept it and carry on to achieve whatever purpose I am meant to be here for.”
Shae was 16 years old when she was first diagnosed with cancer, Rhabdomyo Sarcoma. She was given three months to live.
“I was a little scared, but more angry, when I first was diagnosed,” Brown said. “I mean, I was just 16 years old and that isn’t supposed to happen to someone my age, let alone me. It wasn’t in my plans, but I prayed a lot.”
That’s when her first blush with miracles appeared.
“I was at church on a Sunday and the congregation was told that I was sick. People were asked to remember me in their prayers,” she recalled. “A visiting pastor came to pray for me and commanded the tumor to go away. Later, they had a problem with the catheter on the spot where my cancer was and they couldn’t figure out was wrong. They discovered the tumor was gone.
“There is no doubt in my mind that there is a higher power at work and He worked His power on me. I have to believe it.”
Shae went through chemotherapy and was in remission for 10 months. That’s when she received more bad news. The chemotherapy and treatment she went through for the Rhabdomyo Sarcoma had damaged her heart. After numerous tests to discover what had happened, it was determined that she needed a pacemaker in order to save her life a second time.
Then in March of 2012, the pacemaker was failing and the diagnosis was that Shae needed a heart transplant.
“Well, it was a setback for me at first, but I thought if that is what God put in my path, I would deal with it—what was the alternative?” she said.
She had to wait for over year for a matching donor heart. While waiting, she wondered if she was going to survive but didn’t back down from living her life to the fullest for her family, her community and her church.
Then the news came—a heart had been found from a woman in the Chicago area who had passed away. The surgery was performed, and the transplant took.
“After all that, I really wanted to know who the person was that donated her heart and found out more about her and her family,” Brown said. “So a few years later, I wrote a letter to the donor family and asked if they would be willing to talk to me and tell me more about the lady who had saved my life.”
To her joy, she received a notification that the family would indeed be willing to talk to her and tell her about the woman’s heart that was in her body.
It turns out Shae had received the heart from a twin-daughter of a couple from Chicago, IL. Shae and the family communicated, talked on the phone, and a relationship was born. Over time, it was agreed that the two families would meet. It was the beginning of an incredible friendship born of love, integrity and the best of humanity.
It turns out that the woman’s father Fred ran in marathons, as did his wife Barbara and surviving twin sister Eva from California. When the families finally met in 2016, Shae was smitten with the donor family. She decided she too would run a road race. Fred said he would run it with her. It was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted to this day.
Over the years, they have participated in races all over the state of Texas. Fred, Barbara and Eva have visited often, and the Browns have visited them in Chicago. They even surprised Shae by showing up at a surprise 50th birthday party for her.
Then it happened again.
Shae was taking a shower one morning and discovered a lump. It was back—the insidious cancer had come back in the form of breast cancer.
“I was really angry the second time,” Brown said. “I underwent chemo again along with radiation. It was a hard time in my life. But somehow, as time rolled by, I put my faith and hope back in prayer. I prayed for help, lots of people were praying for me and my family, and then out of nowhere I found the perfect surgeon.”
His name was Ian McCuchton, and he performed surgery that saved her life. A benign tumor was discovered on the vertebrae, and that was removed.
Shae thought she was through with the roughest time in her life, and began to live what she thought would be a normal life—family, church, work and running.
Then, more devastation. The cancer has returned. Shae is now facing Stage 2 cancer, and is undergoing chemo yet again.
“I wasn’t scared, but I was in shock,” she said. “Now, I am never scared because I know after all of this God has to have a plan. I take it one day at a time and still try to be active and productive. Why wait at home and just lie around?
“I am a member of the Immanuel Fellowship Church, and I couldn’t do this without my faith. I believe God is going to get me through it.”
Despite the latest setback, Shae is showing unbounded determination and fortitude as she moves forward, and she has the support of some incredible human beings behind her.
Over the weekend, Fred, Barbara and Eva flew into Texas to be with Shae this weekend. Shae, Barbara and Eva along with Fred were going to run the marathon, but side effects of chemo are limiting Shae to do the 5K. Barbara and Eva are going to do the 5k with Shae. On Saturday, Shae Brown ran and completed the Shiner Beer Run 5K. Barbara and Eva ran with her. Fred ran the half-marathon.
It just goes to show what determination, dedication, prayer and friendship can do for a person.
“Stay strong—don’t give in,” said Brown. “Life is precious—you have to put your faith in God.”