Mike Doyle: Teen honored as breast cancer survivor
Amy Brechon was asked whether she was humbled by the influence of her story.
“Yes, that’s a good word,” Brechon said. “Stuff keeps happening all because the same thing — that one story.”
It’s the story of a breast cancer survivor, who, despite her reluctance, has made an indelible impression locally, regionally and nationally.
Brechon, a senior volleyball and soccer player at Belvidere North High School, first told her story to Rockford Register Star sports reporter Emily Tropp in October, which is breast cancer awareness month.
“Brechon was 13 when she found a lump,” Tropp wrote. “Her family never thought it would be cancer at her age. But because there is such a strong history of it in her family, they took her to a doctor when it didn’t go away.”
An eighth-grader, Brechon underwent a biopsy, which found cystosarcoma phyllodes, a form that wasn’t as severe as others. The lump was removed in surgery.
Since then, Brechon has become a spokeswoman for early detection. She has taken part in cancer awareness events, such as Volley for the Cure last fall.
“The message is that you can never be too young to get cancer,” she said.
But that wasn’t the end of Brechon’s story.
In a timely turn of events, her survival story made huge waves.
During the week of March 9, a crew from the nationally televised syndicated news magazine program “Inside Edition” filmed a segment at her home.
Then on March 16, Brechon was honored as a winner of the National Federation of State High School Association’s Spirit of Sport Award. Details about the award were posted on the Illinois High School Association’s Web site, which read, “The Spirit of Sport Award seeks to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.”
Brechon was named the Section 4 winner, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. She is the first Spirit of Sport award winner from Illinois in the four-year history of the award.
“This is such an honor, and I am thrilled to receive the NFHS Spirit of Sport award,” she said in a statement.
At first, Brechon didn’t want to make others aware of her cancer.
“I was very private about my breast cancer,” she said. “I didn’t want to be in the spotlight.”
But then, she realized that she had an important story to tell.
“My message is that you are never too young and can never be diligent enough about self-examination because early detection is the key,” she said in the IHSA report.
Brechon acknowledged former BNHS athletics director Karen Reynolds, volleyball coach Bria Holzinger and soccer coach Kristin Schaefer-Frank for their support.
Brechon is an honor student at North and is active in many activities, including choir, Choraliers, a cappella, Zonta Club and National Honor Society.
She received the award during the IHSA Class 3A boys basketball state tournament on Saturday. At this writing, the “Inside Edition” segment had not aired, but she said it may be soon.
While she may have been reluctant in the past to tell her story, she realizes that it is an important one. And she realizes something else: “I was a lucky one,” she said.
Mike Doyle is a columnist for the Rockford Register Star.