People Who Inspire: Jaynette Brown on how she got through 52 cancer treatments

Jaynette profile with Luca

One year ago, Jaynette Brown was enjoying 10 mile bike rides and daily walks with her yellow lab, Belle. Staying active and being outdoors was how she wanted to spend her time – not at a routine medical test when she was feeling fine.

“I had four or five mammogram appointments scheduled over a span of three years, but I kept rescheduling them so that I could be on the bike trail. But then I noticed when I laid on my stomach, it would hurt on my left breast. I felt a lump. That’s when I found my mammogram order from two months before and scheduled a test.

Two days after her mammogram, she got a call from the doctor’s office and an ultrasound was scheduled for her the next day. “The doctor was at the test and came out to the waiting room to talk to my husband, Randy, and me. He said he thought it was cancer,” she said.

A biopsy performed a few days later confirmed that it was stage III breast cancer. Jaynette underwent a modified radical mastectomy and the removal of 26 affected lymph nodes. Over the course of the next eight months, she would endure 16 chemo and 36 radiation treatments.

This was the beginning of a journey that would test her stamina and strengthen her faith.

Navigating Treatments

Part of the care Jaynette would have as a cancer patient at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC is access to a patient navigator who would connect her with support services. “I got a call one day from navigator Marlene asking me, “What can we do to help you get through therapy?’

“I recalled a story I read about a woman who wore a different red dress to each of her chemo treatments. I was inspired by that and wanted to have something that I’d also have with me at each visit.

Jaynette’s faith was important to her so she asked the navigator for prayers to be said for her before every treatment. And because her own dog offered her so much comfort, she also requested to have a pet therapy dog with her during treatments.

That’s when a special group of people and a Golden Retriever named Luca came into her life.

“Before chemo and radiation treatments, tests, and doctor visits at Magee, I was met by hospital ministry staff members who took turns praying for me and with me in the treatment room, hallway, or wherever I was.

There was always someone there to lift me up in prayer and this gave me strength, hope, and peace,” she said. These people included the hospital chaplain, a priest, a protestant minister, two seminary students, and two Sisters of St. Joseph-Baden, Sr. Colette as well as Sr. Pat, who administers the “Pets with Heart” program.

Luca’s Love

Sr. Pat introduced Jaynette to Luca, a therapy dog who became an important part of her care in helping her to stay positive. “She was with me for part of every treatment, sitting by my side. I would pet her and just smile. She made me forget that I was getting chemotherapy,” she said.

Jaynette in chemo room with Luca

By the time Jaynette was to have her fifth chemo treatment, the side effects were taking their toll. She was in the waiting room at her physician’s office when she was called in to see the doctor.

“I was feeling weak and sick and when I got into the room I just started to cry. The nurse closed the door and left and when she opened the door again, there was Sister Pat with Luca! I jumped off of the exam table to pet Luca. She stretched out on the floor, taking up most of the space, while I was enjoying another great conversation with Sister Pat. The doctor walked in and said, ‘I see we have some visitors’!

That I was able to have a therapy dog in my physician’s exam room when I needed her most – It was the best day for chemo I had,” she said.

After finishing her round of chemo treatments, Jaynette underwent 36 radiation treatments during a seven week period. She was able to stay at Family House, a temporary residence for patients having treatment. Her stay there was financed through the generosity of The Nicholson Cancer Fund, along with financial support by the Patient’s Assistance Fund at Magee and a family friend in Louisiana.

“It made all the difference that I could stay at Family House during the week and not have to commute more than one hour back and forth to the hospital for radiation. It was a wonderful experience to be with so many other people from all over who were also either having treatment or surgery. Luca was able to be with me here sometimes too,” she commented.

Faith and Friendship

Through all of her treatments, testing, and doctor’s appointments, Jaynette said a little statue of St. Peregrine – a symbol of her faith and devotion to this saint – never left her side. She commented, “Even when I had to be in isolation for seven days because of a low white blood count, I never felt alone because I knew God and St. Peregrine were with me.

It was because of my faith and Luca and all of the people praying for me, that I was able to stay positive and to keep smiling through my treatments.”

Jaynette is now finished with her cancer treatments and is getting therapy for some residual effects of the chemo and radiation. She looks forward to getting stronger so that she can get back to walking and biking again.

Regular cancer screenings will become part of her routine. “My biggest hope”, she said, “is that my story could save other women from going through what I did by just getting a routine mammogram.”


  One thought on “People Who Inspire: Jaynette Brown on how she got through 52 cancer treatments

  1. jaynette brown
    July 20, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you very much for this wonderful story about me and also my wonderful relationship with Luca. I also hope that anyone reading this, and does not keep up with a mammogram will make an appointment for one. Thank you so much Mary. Jaynette Brown

    • July 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

      see Jaynette you are a true inspiration ! we are honored to know you

  2. July 21, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Thank you, Jaynette, for sharing your story and for allowing all of us to experience the difference faith, prayer, and the love of a pet can make in our lives. Your courage and positivity are such an inspiration.

  3. July 21, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Jaynette is truly an inspiration. Through her battles she remains a BEACON for others. I am honored to call her friend! John R. UNITY

  4. August 29, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Jaynette, I was a very close friend of your mother-in-law Betty, and she told me about your struggles with cancer before she passed away. I am so happy to hear that you have gotten through your treatments and are coming along well. My prayers will continue to be with you and Randy. Faith Carl-Kyser

    • jaynette brown
      August 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Thank you very much Faith. Betty always had such a nice time with you and loved to visit with you. Jaynette

  5. September 23, 2014 at 2:40 am

    jaynette brown this donna farrier vickie sister i pray for you all the time. i know what you went throw. because i went throw it to. when the doctor told me i cry and nurse,doctor cry to. i know you have the strength to fright this. i fright it for 15 years.when i told my family i had it it seem like they didn’t believe me until they did the surgry on me. god watches on me and i know he doing the same for you. i hope to meet you one day ok?

  6. jaynette brown
    September 25, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Thank you Donna Farrier and I pray for you also as you have been in this battle for your life also. You are right Donna, until I got Breast Cancer I had no idea what it was like to go through this. I am learning we can have and get support from friends and family, but only those who are Breast Cancer Sisters as we all call ourselves, know the struggle being scared each and every day of a recurrence that can happen in any part of our body. I can be anywhere and a woman with breast cancer will come up to me and tell me we are in this together while waiting for a cure so others do not have to ever go through what we did. Looking forward to meeting you also. Jaynette

  7. Wanda
    May 20, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Thank you so much for this, I had Hodgin lymphoma had 12 chemos and 15 radiations must see haematologist on 29 May 2015 the wait .I want to pull my life together I believe God is with me every step.Regards Wanda (just feel down and it must be otherwise)

    • May 20, 2015 at 10:06 am

      You’re so welcome, Wanda. Thank you for sharing. I’m happy that Jaynette’s story is giving you hope and strengthening your faith. May God’s love embrace you and His grace bless you on this journey.

      • September 29, 2015 at 9:32 pm

        I have somehow lost facebook touch with Jaynette (Shay). Can you update me please?

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