Resilience in the Form of a Cancer Warrior
- Alaskan Bush People star Ami Brown has been through a lot. She’s survived lung cancer, lost her husband Billy and now has to take care of the ranch without Billy’s help. Thankfully, she’s a resilient matriarch with a loving family by her side.
- Resilience is not an uncommon trait amongst cancer warriors. Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, says her cancer journey helped her uncover “some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities.”
- Diagnosis and treatment of the lung cancer can be tricky since symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer has spread. But early detection via screening techniques like the low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan can save lives.
- Talk to your doctor about getting a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) or chest x-ray if you are at high risk or if you experience a cough that doesn’t go away, a cough that produces bloody mucus or if you experience chest pain or trouble swallowing or breathing. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years should be screened.
The 59-year-old matriarch is running her late husband Billy’s business, Alaskan Wilderness Family Productions, according to The Sun. And during a recent promo for the show, viewers got a sneak peak at how the mother of seven is handling the responsibility of running the ranch following her husband’s passing.Read More
— Alaskan Bush People (@AlaskanBushPPL) October 24, 2022
But the only problem is how attached Ami has grown to her animals. In fact, it’s hard for her to image butchering them based on details from the promo.
“I can’t help how attached I get to the animals,” Ami said in an emotional aside. “I love animals, but I definitely appreciate Bam stepping up.
“He’s just kind of taking over for what Billy would be doing for me.”
The Matriarch of Alaskan Bush People Endures Hardship
Ami Brown has been through a lot in recent years. After experiencing a myriad of symptoms, the Alaskan Bush People star was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in April 2017.
“I had some pain in my back,” she told PEOPLE. “Walking from the house to the garden, I would get winded. There were days I was just bedridden, but I just thought it was my arthritis. We were filming the show and at times it was all I could do to just stand there — I was in so much pain.”
“When we were shooting promo shots I told them, ‘There’s something wrong.’ In December (2016), I went to the dentist to get impressions made for new teeth and when they did a scan they noticed a little capsule. That’s how this all started.”
“Amora Brown (of Alaskan Bush People) was diagnosed with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (cancer cells that form in the tissues of the lungs) in April 2017,” the statement read.” Treatment for her cancer included a four-month course of chemotherapy with radiation. Her disease responded well to the treatment and she is now in remission.”
Then, just a few years after beating the disease, Ami lost her beloved husband, Billy Brown (also known as da) to a seizure at age 68.
View this post on Instagram
“Sad as it may be, da’s not right here with us, not physically, but we know in spirit he is,” Ami said on the show. “And we know what all da wanted — we have to go on, that’s what we do.”
Staying Positive during Difficult Times
Despite everything she’s been through, the Alaskan Bush People matriarch is doing her best to push through and take care of her family and the ranch. And that kind of resilience is not uncommon amongst cancer warriors. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. At SurvivorNet, we get to share these stories of resilience all the time because there’s no shortages of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like Young. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice. Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she preiously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”
Understanding the Alaskan Bush People Star’s Cancer: Lung Cancer
Lung cancer, the second most common type of cancer, is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States. Diagnosis and treatment of the disease can be tough since symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer has spread.
An initial symptom, for example, could be as serious as a seizure if the lung cancer has already spread to the brain. But other symptoms can include increased coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, wheezing, losing your voice or persistent infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.
The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell, which makes up 85 percent of cases, and small-cell. These types act differently and, accordingly, require different types of treatment. Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet about how distinguishing between the two types – and their subtypes – is beneficial.
“Within that non-small cell category, there’s a subtype called non-squamous adenocarcinoma, and that’s the group of patients for whom genetic testing is very important on the tumor,” he explains. “Genetic testing is looking for mutations in the DNA, in the tumor, which are not present in your normal DNA.”
Lung Cancer Screening
More men and women die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, but how can screenings make a difference? Lung cancer usually affects people above the age of 65, but a small number of people are diagnosed younger than 45 years old.
Many lung cancers are found accidentally, but screening can help doctors diagnose lung cancers at earlier stages of the disease when successful treatment is more likely. Early-stage lung cancers that are removed with surgery may even be curable. But more often than not, lung cancer diagnoses come after the disease has already spread to other parts of the body making it more difficult to treat.
“In about 70 to 80 percent of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer, unfortunately the cancer has spread outside of the lung and is not suitable for surgery,” Dr. Forde tells SurvivorNet.
But screening methods such as the low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan can save lives – if those who are at risk participate. This test uses a very small amount of radiation to create highly detailed pictures of your lungs to reveal cancer long before initial symptoms. The State of Lung Cancer 2020 report from the American Lung Association found that screening every currently eligible person would save close to 48,000 lives, but only about 6 percent of Americans who are at high risk are actually getting screened.
“The concern is perhaps patients who are on Medicaid or don’t have insurance will not be referred for appropriate screening,” Dr. Forde says. “I think it behooves us all to try and increase the uptake of CT screening in particular, given that it’s been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality.”
So, Who Should Get Screened?
You should talk to your doctor about getting a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) or chest x-ray if you are at high risk or if you experience a cough that doesn’t go away, a cough that produces bloody mucus or if you experience chest pain or trouble swallowing or breathing.
Nearly 20 percent of people who die from lung cancer in the United States each year have never smoked or used any other form of tobacco, but smoking is a huge risk factor for the disease since the tobacco in cigarettes is a carcinogen that causes mutations in lung cells and enables the growth of cancer. If you quit smoking, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing the disease, but you don’t go all the way down to the level of a non-smoker.
In March 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPST) introduced new guidelines which dropped the age of eligibility for lung cancer screening and the number of “pack years,” or number of years a person smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes a day.
The new guidelines specify that adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years should be screened. So if someone smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years, their “pack history” would be 20 years, and they should be screened. But if someone smoked two packs a day for 10 years, they would also have a 20 year “pack history.”
The USPSTF says that expanding screening eligibility will be “especially helpful” to Black people and women and will increase screening access. Data shows that both groups tend to smoke fewer cigarettes than white men. Data also shows that Black people have a higher risk of lung cancer than white people.