Powerful prayer: Local family battling breast cancer

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

family: From left, Zac, Brittany, Raeana, Alex and Rossie.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

family: From left, Zac, Brittany, Raeana, Alex and Rossie.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

For almost 20 years, Rossie and Brittany Creel have shared laughs, heartaches, children and many of life’s blessings.
However, in June 2015, the Creel family was faced with a challenge not so easily overcome, cancer.
Brittany, a Georgia native, first met Poplarville native Rossie Creel in 1993, during their time as volunteer firefighters. The pair didn’t start dating until about two years later, when they were both employed as guards at the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department’s juvenile and lunacy facility.
“She was awesome and everything I wanted,” Rossie said. “We dated for about a year and it just became evident we should get married. She tried to run me off a couple of times, but I didn’t take no for an answer. I was persistent.”
Brittany, who was a single mother to her son Zac at the time, was concerned Rossie, who is younger, might be taking on more than he realized.
“He always treated us both very well and treated Zac like his own child,” Brittany said. “But I eventually gave in.”
Although the pair had talked about marriage, Brittany was unaware Rossie had purchased a ring. He proposed at a restaurant in Hattiesburg and Brittany recalled being slightly aggravated with Rossie because he appeared nervous and wasn’t talking very much before he got down on one knee.
The pair had a church wedding on March 2, 1996 at First Baptist Church in Poplarville and honeymooned in Disney World.
Since 1997, Rossie has been a law enforcement officer with the Poplarville Police Department. Brittany spent time employed with the Poplarville School District, but mostly is stay-at-home mom to their children, 15-year-old Raeana and 11-year-old Alex.
In June, Brittany discovered something that wasn’t supposed to be there, a lump in her breast.
“I wasn’t even looking for it,” she said. “I reached up to scratch and felt a knot. I have a history of cysts and so I figured that’s what it was.”
Upon further urging from Rossie, Brittany went to local physician Angela Jones, who advised her to have it checked out. The next day, the Creels went to the breast center in Hattiesburg, where Brittany underwent a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy.
On June 16, Dr. Jones called the Creels in to discuss her results, which revealed breast cancer.
“It hit Rossie first,” Brittany said. “I remember nervously laughing and saying this is ridiculous. I couldn’t understand why or how. I then asked what our options were.”
Rossie said Jones “gracefully” broke the news to the couple, then sat and prayed with them.
“I was devastated,” he said. “It floored me. When I hear the word cancer, I automatically think the worst. I was trying to determine how I would raise the children without her.”
Brittany has no family history of the disease and had not thought about it. She was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. It was contained and had not spread to her lymph nodes.
However, Brittany has what is called a triple negative, Rossie said, which means she tested negative for three hormone receptors. More than 80 percent of women test positive for any of them, which limited her treatment options.
However, this type of cancer responds to chemotherapy, Brittany said. After a number of MRIs and PET scans, she began 18-weeks of treatment. Now, she travels to Slidell for a weekly treatment every three weeks.
Life changed drastically for Brittany after her first treatment. She experienced total hair loss, depletion in energy, aches, pains, fatigue and is sometimes confined to their home so as not to catch an infection.
Since her diagnosis, the Creel family has rolled up their sleeves and assumed household responsibilities.
Rossie said he has discovered he is a “pretty good housewife.”
“I sweep, mop and wash the dishes,” he said. “The kids pitch in with their chores. They have done a good job. Zac sometimes takes the kids out and has helped out a lot. I also found out what it’s like to be the caretaker.”
Brittany took care of her father until his death in 2012. He was rendered a paraplegic when she was 5-years-old.
The Creels told each of their children separately about their mother’s diagnosis.
Raeana said her first thoughts when she heard the word ‘cancer’ were not good.
“But I knew everything was going to be fine because my mom is very strong and has a positive attitude,” she said. “I knew God had a plan and had everything under control and he is watching over us. My mom has been very brave through all of this. She’s kept a great attitude. Even on days she doesn’t feel well, she’s still taken great care of me and Alex and we try to do what we can to help her out.”
Alex also said he knew things would be ok and there was nothing to worry about.
“They told me it was small and they found it early,” he said. “I help out by taking out the trash, taking care of our dog and two bunnies and doing yard work.”
Zak said it’s a tough thing to hear about one’s mom. But he knew she was tough and would be all right.
“We are and have always been close,” Zak said. “I’ve always been a mama’s boy. I grew up with divorced parents and she’s been there when no one else was. I’m here when I need to be. Rossie picked up the ball, so I pick up what he can’t, which isn’t much.”
The Creels said they are not only blessed the cancer was found early but by the outpouring of support from the community and church members, who have organized fundraisers and sent donations.
Rossie said there has been some financial hardship from travel expenses and medical bills not covered by insurance. The family has a GoFundMe account at http://www.gofundme.com/z5ummrnc.
Brittany said she encourages people to get mammograms and perform self-exams.
During her three-week check-up, doctors told Brittany her tumor was shrinking and their goal is to have it completely gone by the time she undergoes a bilateral mastectomy in November. Doctors will also perform immediate reconstruction.
“We are very strong in our faith,” Rossie said. “I believe in the power of prayer. Lots of people are praying for us. God is in the business of healing through doctors and there will be a testimony at the end of this.”

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