Round 2: Lexi Brown still fighting cancer after summer trip to World Cup

In February, the Sun wrote about Lexi Brown—an 11-year-old battling cancer with the support of St. Joseph High School girl’s soccer team. Her wish was to attend the World Cup in Canada that summer.

Make-A-Wish made it happen, and Brown traveled to Winnipeg with the family in June. Before she set foot on the field to play her first match, the U.S. team’s star forward Abby Wambach—who holds the World Record for the most goals scored in international matches by any player in soccer history—recorded a message for Brown and two other Make-A-Wish fans lucky enough to attend. 

click to enlarge Round 2: Lexi Brown still fighting cancer after summer trip to World Cup
PLAY BALL: Lexi Brown’s wish was granted when she travelled to Canada to meet the U.S. Women’s Team at the World Cup.

“I just heard from my mom and Sarah that you guys are here watching us,” she said. “If we score, it’ll be for you guys. Enjoy. Go USA.”

The U.S. scored, and scored, and scored again. Eventually, they took the FIFA 2015 World Cup trophy. Brown met Wambach and several other players on the team.

What’s Wambach like? “She’s tall,” Brown said. Wambach is just short of 6 feet. “She was nice,” Brown added. 

So many Americans were in Winnipeg, according to Lexi’s mom, Lisa, that the overwhelmed Canadians ran out of hotdogs halfway through that first match. The Browns had lunch with the players’ families, befriending Abby Wambach’s mom, Judy.

“I think they were ready to adopt Lexi and take her home with them,” Lisa laughed.

It was a bittersweet summer for the Browns. Doctors found seven recurring tumors in Lexi’s lungs. She’s taking a daily chemo pill in anticipation of a scan at the end of September. It makes her vision blurry and could turn her hair white.

But Lexi, like the U.S. Women’s team, can’t be stopped. She signed up for volleyball tryouts at her middle school two days after her diagnosis.

“She made the team,” Lisa said. “After not doing anything, really, for a year.”

She practices three days a week. That’s on top of physical therapy for her leg, from which a tumor was removed last year.

What’s more—when Lexi isn’t doing physical therapy or learning volleyball, she’s playing soccer with the Orcutt Crusaders. She’s back in PE class, too.

On Sept. 8, the Board of Supervisors recognized Lexi for the second year in a row. It’s childhood cancer awareness month in Santa Barbara County, and Lexi went before the board wearing a purple headband. 

“Since my last appearance, I had to endure seven rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, two blood transfusions, and one platelet transfusion,” she said. “I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes. It was difficult but now I’m happy that my hair has grown back.”

Of her second diagnosis: “I am disappointed that this has happened, but I’m just going to have to fight again, and this time it’ll be easy peasy,” Lexi said. “My story will be a long one, and it’s just getting started.” She asked the board to spread the word and push for more federal funding for childhood cancer research.

“The band says on it fight like a girl,” Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said when given one of Lexi’s purple-and-gold bracelets. “So I’ll proudly wear this.”

When Lexi’s not exhorting the Board of Supervisors or pushing for more federal funding for cancer research, she’s raising tens of thousands of dollars through local businesses and organizations. 

Through St. Baldrick’s, an organization that funds research into childhood cancer, she threw a Bald for Lexi event. Friends and family shaved their heads and pledged donations; out of the 200 people there, more than 30 shaved their heads. Lexi managed to raise $18,000.

“Lexi’s best friend was there, but they didn’t get any sponsors before,” Lisa explained. With a sign—“If I raise $500, I’ll shave my head tonight”—they raised $500 in less than an hour. Then $600. Then $700—eventually, they raised more than $800. The event took in around $18,000 in total.

She also made her own ice cream flavor, Buttermonkey Swirl—vanilla ice cream with chocolate and peanut butter mixed in. It’s called Butterfinger Blast now, (it’s still available at Doc Bernstein’s), but it generated about $16,000 for research through sales there.

She attended the Cruzin’ for Life event Sept. 19. She’s looking forward to her volleyball season, excited that soccer is starting again, and getting ready for a second Bald for Lexi event in March of 2016.

“Remember to spread the word,” she said.

Contact Staff Writer Sean McNulty at [email protected].

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