Thursday, September 13, 2007

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Rennie Brown’s is an extra special good news story

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This is one of those good news stories that people complain about never seeing in the newspaper.
I’ve been meaning to write it for a couple of years, but now that Rennie Brown has left town it’s time I finally got around to doing it.
I’m not saying it’s good news that Rennie brown has left town. It is and it isn’t. There are a lot of folks who’ll miss her around here, but there are there are plenty of others who’ll be glad to see where she’s going.
To get on with the story, let’s back-track to the summer of 1976. Rennie Brown was 13 and getting ready to go to Arkansas on a family vacation. One of her legs had been hurting a little bit, but Rennie figured it was just normal muscle soreness that came from running track at school. She didn’t think much about it.
The pain got worse though. By the time Rennie returned from Arkansas a couple of weeks later, she could barely walk and a lump the size of a golf ball had popped up on her calf. They said it was just a cyst that would soon go away.
A couple of more weeks passed. The pain got worse and the lump didn’t go away. Rennie’s doctors suggested she check into Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville for a biopsy on the lump.
The next thing Rennie knew, a doctor was standing by her bed talking about neuroepithetlioma. It’s a type of cancer and was the source of the lump on Rennie’s leg.
The doctor told Rennie she had a choice. Either have the leg amputated then and there, or risk the cancer spreading.
“I didn’t waste time thinking about it. It didn’t take five minutes to decide,” Rennie said. I told him to go ahead and amputate. Otherwise, I knew I’d be useless.”
And far be it from Rennie Brown to be useless.
The next few weeks were rough, of course. First the psychological and physical pain of losing a leg, then the slow adjustment to an artificial limb.
“One day, about two months after the operation it suddenly hit me. You know, the old ‘hey, you’ve only got one leg. Poor you. You oughta feel sorry for yourself.’ But that didn’t last long.' I got rid of that feeling quick and haven’t bothered with it since.” Rennie said.

That’s mainly because Rennie Brown has been too busy to wallow in self-pity. When she got back to Riverdale High School, the first thing she set out to do was make the swimming team. By her junior and senior years she was competing regularly in meets.
“ I was far from the best swimmer on the team.” She said., “But at least I can brag that I never came in last.
Rennie has devoted countless hours to working with the American Cancer Society – appearing on telethons, making speeches in the community. The last couple of years she has been a counselor at R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Cancer Kids) near Gainesville.
I guess it’s understandable that she would spend this time helping out a charity that’s fighting the disease that claimed her leg. What’s remarkable is the devotion she has shown to other charities as well.
“About a year ago, I rode in a bike-a-thon to help raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I was puffing along when Rennie pulled up alongside me.
“Great day for a bile ride, huh?” she said as we pedaled together for a couple of miles. She told me it was one of the first times she’d been on a bicycle since losing her leg. Two of her friends have Cystic Fibrosis and had told her about the bike-a-thon. Rennie had spent an entire month learning how to ride a bicycle all over again and had the bruises to show for it. She just wanted to do something to help out her friends.
The list of her activities could go on and on. She’s raised thousands of dollars in March Of Dimes Walk-a-thons. She’s worked for Easter Seals and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Like I said, Rennie Brown made up her mind she wasn’t going to be useless.
On August 15, Rennie and her parents, Charles and Carol Brown, held a reception at the McGregor Church of Christ. They called it a “Celebration of Life.” It marked the fifth anniversary of Rennie’s amputation, the fifth anniversary of victory over cancer.
Since then, Rennie has been giving lots of thought to how she’ll spend the next five years. In the past, Shands Teaching Hospital has regularly contacted her when other young cancer patients have undergone amputations. And Rennie has traveled to Gainesville at her own expense to lend support to the children and their families.
“I just tell them ‘Hey, here I am. I’ve made it You’re going to make it, too. And we start talking about what it means to the rest of our lives. I think my being there really makes a difference,” Rennie said.
That’s why Rennie Brown packed her bags, said goodbye to her family and moved to Gainesville last Thursday. She isn’t sure exactly what she’s going to do. She might go back to school at some point, but primarily..............

This story appeared twenty six years ago in the Fort Myers News Press and was written by Bob Morris. Bob is now an author of novels.

Rennie Mills is now the mother of three children: a twelve year old son and two daughters, ages seventeen and nineteen. She is a Physicians assistant and she, Bob and the children make their home in Gainesville Florida.

Last fall Rennie rode her bicycle seventy miles in the Lance Armstrong Live Strong event in Austin Texas, still helping in the quest to find cures for cancer.

Ain't God good?
Shalom for now,

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