During Meme Brown’s courageous four-year battle with ovarian cancer, there are two things those close to her say she never lost: her will to fight and her unwavering faith.
After four years of fighting the untimely illness, the 21-year-old who won the hearts and admiration of her community died peacefully on Oct. 15.
It was in 2009, during Brown’s senior year at Starmount High School, that she first became ill. Though she is most remembered for her standout performance as a four-year starter for the Lady Rams volleyball team, it was while running track that her health made its first decline. While competing in a track meet in the spring of 2009, Brown suffered a startling collapse. Upon a visit to her doctor, she found out she had a tumor in one of her ovaries. However, it was said that the tumor was not cancerous.
In fashion with the strength and bravery she would possess throughout her battle with cancer, Brown had surgery to remove the tumor and went to her senior prom the following weekend.
“She went right on to prom like she was 100 percent,” said close friend and fellow Starmount volleyball teammate Jana Matthews. “You’d never guess that was a girl who had just had such a scary thing happen.”
Only weeks later, Brown graduated from Starmount High School with high honors and both academic and athletic scholarships to Lees-McRae College, where she would play volleyball for two consecutive seasons.
While at Lees-McRae, doctors found a second tumor, which was determined to be cancerous and ultimately put an end to her volleyball career two years early.
In 2011, she decided to transfer from Lees-McRae to Appalachian State University and changed her major from education to nursing.
“Everything she was going through made her decide she wanted to take a different route,” said close friend and fellow Starmount volleyball teammate, Lauren Cook. “She had a close relationship with her doctors and nurses, and I think that had a big impact on her realizing she could help people and become a nurse.”
While studying nursing at ASU, doctors continued to find more cancerous tumors.
“Every time they would remove a tumor and she’d be tumor free, as soon as they did another scan to check if she was still tumor-free, they’d discover she had a new one,” Cook said.
Eventually her battle with ovarian cancer became too consuming, and she had to make the difficult decision to halt her education to continue fighting her relentless illness.
During Brown’s difficult fight against ovarian cancer, she had multiple opportunities to lose hope or become discouraged, but those who knew her said she never did.
“She never acted like it was going to beat her. I never once heard her complain,” Cook said. “She never let it get her down.”
Her Starmount volleyball coach, Jon Symons, said she fought her battle with cancer with the same intensity he had seen for four years on the volleyball court.
“That was one thing you could never take away from her: her fight,” Symons said.
She continued to stay optimistic through several scans, which almost always came back indicating she had more tumors.
Those closest to her said it was undoubtedly her Christian faith that kept her strong.
“She did everything with the strongest faith, she was always optimistic and confident that He was in charge,” said Jordan Raye, close friend and fellow Starmount volleyball teammate.
Brown went through several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy before her last big push against her fatal illness.
This fall Brown went to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem for a scan to determine if she had any new tumors. The results of the scan indicated she had more cancerous tumors and that chemo was not working as doctors had hoped it would.
“She ended up getting pneumonia and they had to stop doing chemo because her body was just too weak,” Cook said. “It got to the point where there was really not much they could do unless her body regained strength.”
She remained in Baptist hospital for more than a month, with her family and loved ones constantly by her side and support flooding in from the community.
Though Brown’s life was cut tragically short on Oct.15, she made a lasting impression on those she came in contact with while she was alive.
She is remembered as a vivacious, loud, smiling, faithful, beautiful girl, in the words of Raye.
“Meme never met a stranger and never entered a room without you knowing it,” Raye said. “She could light up a whole room.”
It is these memories that her friends, family and loved ones will cherish.
“What I’ve noticed in the past few days is when someone passes away you cry, and I’ve seen more laughs and smiles than tears when people talk about her,” Matthews said. “It’s a great thing when you can look back on someone and you don’t cry as much as you smile.”
Brown was laid to rest Oct. 18 at Boonville Cemetery.
“When it was my chance to talk to Meme’s dad, David, at the funeral, I was crying and I told him I didn’t understand and he looked at me with the same big brown eyes Meme had, and he calmly said, ‘Jordan, heaven must have needed a little excitement up there.’ It was then that I knew Meme’s strength came straight from her daddy and I’m so blessed to call her one of my best friends. Meme was an angel on earth and is now my angel in heaven, and although she is no longer with us, her legacy will always remain,” Raye said.
“We know Meme is in a better place right now,” said Symons. “There’s no more cancer for her, there’s no more pain, and as much as we are hurt, she’s better off. We all love her and we’ll see her soon.”
Memorials may be made to the “Meme Mckensie Brown, Fight Like A Girl, Scholarship Fund”, First Citizens Bank in Boonville, 105 E. Main Street, Boonville, NC 27011.
She is survived by her loving parents, David and Sharon Brown and her brother, Tyler Brown.
Reach Darcie Dyer at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.