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Adrienne Grant-Simpson spent last Christmas in the hospital.
Instead of watching her four children open their presents under the tree, Grant-Simpson of Sunrise was getting an MRI and having almost two liters of fluid drained from her lungs.
The day after Christmas, she learned her breast cancer was back and had spread to her lungs and brain.
The Stage 4 diagnosis came after more than three years of battling the disease.
“I don’t care what stage it is,” said Grant-Simpson, 40, surrounded by her family. “I am not worrying about that. I am focusing on getting better and taking care of my kids.”
Faith has been the cornerstone of Grant-Simpson’s battle.
“I just take it and I put it to God,” she said. “People ask me how I do it. Because I don’t put it on my brain.”
But she knows her disease is beginning to rob her of her physical strength, her vision and ability to do day-to-day tasks, such as bathing her 3-year-old twins.
Dr. Mehmet Hepgur, Grant-Simpson’s oncologist at Broward Health, said while her cancer is not curable, the goal is to “keep it under control.”
She was nominated for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book campaign because her strength is remarkable, said Phyllis Harris, manager of Broward Health’s Kinship Cares initiative. Harris said she would love to see Grant-Simpson’s wish of taking her four children to Disney World in Orlando fulfilled.
“She wants to be able to leave her children with a positive memory,” Harris said. “It will give her something to look forward to.”
Grant-Simpson hesitated to say what else she really needs, only saying her family struggles to pay rent and utilities on only her husband’s salary.
“She stresses over it, but she doesn’t talk about it,” said her mother Panserena Rowe. “She is a real fighter.”
In November 2012, Grant-Simpson came home from work, took off her shirt and felt a lump in her left breast.
“I was concerned about it so I went to the emergency room and they did tests. But because it was the day before Thanksgiving, the office was closed and they told me to follow up,” she said.
But she didn’t make the appointment. She said her husband was about to undergo surgery, so she put it off.
In January 2013, she went to the doctor to get a biopsy. The result: She was pre-cancerous and had to remove the lump or the entire breast. She removed the lump.
“I should have just had them remove the breast,” she said.
Over the next four years, she has had multiple surgeries to remove both breasts and several lymph nodes. She has also faced numerous rounds of chemo and radiation treatments.
During this period, she also gave birth to twins: Danila and Daniel Grant-Simpson were born on Nov. 6, 2014.
I don’t care what stage [cancer] it is. I am not worrying about that. I am focusing on getting better and taking care of my kids.
Last December, she was having difficulty breathing and went to the emergency room. An X-ray showed fluid in her lungs. She was released on Dec. 15 with 10 days of antibiotics. By Dec. 23rd, she was back in the emergency room with breathing difficulties.
By Dec. 26, she had fluid drained from her lungs.
“It actually filled a two-liter Pepsi bottle,” she said.
On Dec. 27, she was released. She learned the cancer had returned and has been on and off chemo and radiation since.
When she’s well enough, she does whatever she can for her children. In addition to the twins, she has a 7-year-old daughter Adrianna and 14-year-old son Kerone Grant-Coley.
Adrianna, who is the first to get her mom tissue or water if she needs it, always tells her mother she loves her and that she’s going to get better.
Her mother tries to keep the family together.
“She is a strong woman,” said Veronica Sterling, Adrianna’s aunt. “I don’t think I’d be able to go through it. Even when she is low, low, low, she picks herself up. She has a hope she is going to get well. Her motive is she wants to be strong for her children.”