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A special walk for breast cancer

Valencia’s Nikki Brandes will participate in the two-day Avon Walk

Posted: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Nikki and Aaron Brandes put shoes on her daughter Isabelle at their home in Valencia.

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Nikki Brandes sports a pink ribbon tattoo on her right ankle.

She acquired the tattoo before she knew that breast cancer would strike close to home.

In March, Brandes’ sister-in-law, Jamie DeBates, of Sparks, Nev., found a lump in her breast.

DeBates was diagnosed with stage-one triple-negative breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery, in April.

Triple-negative breast cancer is considered to be a more aggressive form of the disease with a higher relapse rate.

Brandes said she has been impressed at the strength her sister-in-law and her family, husband Jim and daughters Kalynn, 17 and Alexus 7, have shown in the face of the disease.

“They’ve faced it head-on,” said Brandes. “My sister-in-law hasn’t let herself become a victim.”

Brandes said DeBates suffered a collapsed lung after her chemotherapy port was installed a few weeks after her April surgery.

“She’s had a bit of a rough time,” Brandes said. “They live so far away, but I wanted to do something to support her.”

Brandes will participate in the Avon Two-Day Walk for Breast Cancer Sept. 22-23 in Santa Barbara.

She will walk with the Breast Buddies team that includes three other members from the area.

“I’ve been in contact with them through email, but I haven’t met them yet,” Brandes said.

Brandes has participated in several breast cancer walks in the last 13 years.

“I’ve done the Avon Three Day and the Revlon Walk before,” she said. “Any time I can contribute I try to do that.  But this year is the most significant walk for me.”

Brandes said DeBates will be starting her second course of chemotherapy soon and is scheduled for her last treatment on Sept. 13, which is nine days before the walk.

“She is so inspiring to me and I am really proud to call them my family,” she said.

Brandes said the walks are hard, but the experience is well worth the effort.

“The last time I did a walk I lost both my big toenails, it was freezing and I ended up in the medical tent,” she said. “But it is very moving. You see people out there who are going through treatment, the survivors, people who have just been diagnosed — there are so many people at different stages in their journey, and then all the people that support those with cancer.

Brandes said the experience creates a bond among the walkers.

“You tend to forget that all these people are strangers,” she said. “You feel part of something bigger than yourself, it is very rewarding and very humbling. You realize that your problems aren’t that big.”

Brandes grew up in Redondo Beach and is a recent transplant to the Santa Clarita Valley, moving to Valencia only two years ago. She married her husband, Aaron, four years ago. They have two children, Norton, 13 and Isabelle, 2.

The family often takes walks around their Valencia neighborhood to help Brandes get in shape for the September walk.

DeBates said the effort being made by Brandes on her behalf “makes me cry.”

“It’s touching, extremely touching,” she said.

Brandes needs to raise $1,800 for the walk and she is halfway to her goal.

To contribute to Brandes’ fundraising efforts visit
info.avonfoundation.org/goto/nikkispage.

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