Wife, Young Sons Keep Dad’s Memory Alive with Colon Cancer Race
Patient: Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown was only 37 years old when he began his battle with stage 4 colon cancer.
He and his wife, Stephanie, fought as a team after the shocking diagnosis in September 2012. They were also raising two young sons, Louis, 4, and Tony, 2.
Because the boys were so young, they couldn’t understand the severity of the situation. It became even more confusing after their dad passed away just a year shy of his diagnosis. Stephanie finds as the boys age, they have more questions and heartache about what happened.
“It has been harder than I thought it would be,” Stephanie said. “Their grief has increased. They were so young at the time.”
That’s where the Sentara “Don’t Sit on Colon Cancer 5K” race, which has become a family tradition, has been helpful. The kids, now 10 and 8, have the opportunity to remember their dad in a special way that day.
The race will take place on March 24 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.
Building Bonds at the Hospital
Andrew and Stephanie both taught elementary school in Virginia Beach when they learned that the abdominal pain and bloody stools he’d been experiencing were colon cancer symptoms.
Andrew underwent surgery to remove some of his colon and blockage and endured three types of chemotherapy.
“The third one worked for a short time,” Stephanie said. “March and April (of 2013) were good months, but then things went south quick.”
Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital – particularly the 2 South wing, became a second home to the family. Both boys celebrated their birthdays there so they could be with their dad. Andrew and Stephanie celebrated their 9th anniversary on Aug. 14, 2013, at the hospital, just a couple weeks before he passed away. The hospital vice president gave them flowers, balloons and a picture frame to help them celebrate.
“It was a surreal time because that’s the hospital where my oldest son was born,” Stephanie said.
The hospital was touched by the Brown family and the time that the little boys spent in the hospital. Nurses on 2 South wanted the lounge to be a more welcoming place for families.
Donations from other families and the Love Light Campaign added welcomed additions – a beach mural, games for kids and a kitchenette. Family friends hand crafted and donated a chess set that pits the Red Sox and the Yankees. Andrew was an avid Sox fan.
Andrew passed away at home on Aug. 27, 2013 – just under a year from his diagnosis. He was a beloved father, husband, brother, teacher and friend. He had a keen sense of humor and loved to cook. In fact, he also worked as a chef before he and Stephanie were married and used those skills to make fabulous family meals.
To help her sons cope with Andrew’s death, Stephanie and the boys have attended Camp Lighthouse, Sentara’s camp for grieving families.
They also keep their Andrew’s memory alive with the “Don’t Sit on Colon Cancer 5K” race as Team AZB, his initials – Andrew Zachariah Brown. Their first race was in 2014.
“Andrew would have wanted us to participate in the race to do something good for ourselves and raise awareness of colon cancer,” Stephanie said. “He loved bringing people together and supporting one another. He also loved cheering racers on.”
Join others touched by colon cancer and register for the Don’t Sit On Colon Cancer 5K race on March 24, 2018, now.