CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - "I was 35 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Gail Brown of North Charleston. Hearing those words from her doctor, single mom Brown says her life turned upside down.
"It was very upsetting. I felt like my world was going to end," Brown said. "The first thing I thought about was, 'What about my children?'"
Brown has five children. Their ages ranged at the time of her diagnosis from a one-year-old daughter all the way to a teenager. Brown says she knew she needed help and couldn't face her diagnosis on her own.
"I cried. I was terrified. I didn't know which way to turn," Brown said.
That's when Penny Fanning walked into Brown's life as a Nurse Navigator at Trident Breast Care Center.
"She felt very alone and I went to her appointments with her. I went to her surgical appointments, and I went to meet her at her doctor's office as a support just so she knew she wasn't alone," Fanning said.
From the initial diagnosis to finishing radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Fanning helped Brown in navigating the uncharted waters of breast cancer with everything from physical to emotional to financial needs.
"In the big scene of life we are trying to save women's lives," Fanning said.
Brown says she found the cancer lump herself while giving herself a self-exam in the shower.
Trident Breast Care Center officials advise women to give themselves a self-exam once a month and to get a clinical exam by a doctor at least once a year.
More than a year later from her diagnosis, Brown is cancer-free and says it was Fanning's support and her kids' smiles that gave her the will to fight to the end.
"It's just amazing that I am here today, that I am able to take care of my children," Brown said. "I didn't like that my children had to see me sick. I didn't like that my children had to see me bald, but they are happy today that I am here."
"I'm a survivor and I'm thankful for that," she said.