While breast cancer receives more attention than most other cancers, one lesser-known cancer affected a Sam Houston State University faculty member, close to heart.
Frances Brandau, Ph.D, an assistant communications studies professor at SHSU, strives to raise $10,000 for her mother to help others fight for their lives even after having already lost her mother.
Brandau lost her mother Patsy Rhodes Brandau to cholangiocarcinoma cancer, a bile duct cancer, on Oct. 28, 2013. To honor her mother, Brandau is trying to raise $10,000 to create an endowment in her mother’s name. With the creation of this endowment, an award would be given out every year to a person suffering from bile duct cancer in remembrance of Brandau’s mother.
After witnessing her mother’s battle with cholangiocarcinoma cancer, Brandau first reached out to immediate family members and close friends for donations to fund the project. However, Brandau realized she would have to branch out to communities and on social media in order to meet the fast-approaching five-year deadline.
“$10,000 is the minimum amount of money needed in order to create an endowment through the Mitchell Cancer Institute,” Brandau said. “I work for the state, so I am doing my best to raise the money.”
Brandau’s mother pre-arranged her own funeral. During her pre-arranged funeral meeting, she requested that instead of money being spent on flowers for her funeral, the money go towards research for her type of cancer.
“I was not surprised by this decision at all,” she said. “I knew she would want to help people, and my dad did the same thing when he died nine years earlier. I decided that it would be more meaningful to create a specific endowment in her name.”
Brandau’s mother had a surgery to remove the cancer soon after her doctors first made the discovery. After the surgery, the doctors informed her that she had clean margins, but her cancer came back not long after.
“It was so devastating,” Brandau said. “It was very hard on us, because my dad had died nine years ago. My mom was kind of the glue that kept us all together, because we are all so spread out in different places.”
Brandau’s mom underwent two rounds of chemo treatment at Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile, Al. However, the cancer was not responsive. In March, her doctors realized she was not responding to the chemo and began trying a more aggressive chemo that still had no effect.
“Some of us couldn’t be in town, so it was very difficult,” Brandau said. “I can’t imagine how emotionally wrenching it has to be to go and pick out your own casket, but I couldn’t be there because of the distance.”
Currently, Brandau’s main focus is to raise enough money for the endowment. Her family, friends and even her students are helping her achieve her goal.
“I have five years to raise $10,000,” Brandau said. “Once that goal is met, I will set another. Though the response has been good, we could always do better. In order to meet my goal, I still need other people to participate. We have a long way to go.”
For Brandau, any donation no matter how big or small, is one cent closer to maintaining her mother’s memory.
“For me, it is really important that my mom not be forgotten and for her to continue to help people after she has passed away,” Brandau said. “A big donation is great; a small donation is fine. If five people give $25, that’s $100. My goal would be more than $10,000, but I’m taking it one step at a time. People don’t have to make huge donations. Even $10 or $20 is important because it gets me closer to $10,000. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you raise $10,000? One dollar at a time. Every dollar counts.”
To donate, visit http://www.usahealthsystem.com/makeagift then click ‘Donate Now.’ Then, fill out your general information and in the pull down menu, select “Healthcare” under Supporting, “Mitchell Cancer Institute” under Division and then “Other” under Fund. Once there, click “In Memory Of” and type “for The Patsy Rhodes Brandau Cancer Research Fund.”