Floride’s Story: Singing Through Cancer

When a chronic cough wouldn’t let her hit the high notes as she sang in her choir, Floride (pronounced Flo-reed) Brown-Jones saw her internist at Henry Ford Hospital. After several tests and numerous medications, she had a CAT scan.

Soon she was told to bring a family member to Henry Ford to hear the results: A large mass — about the size of a baseball — was on her kidney and would make surgery nearly impossible.

“It was very fortunate that the tumor was found,” says Hans J. Stricker, M.D., an international expert in urology and chief of surgery at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. “Usually there are no symptoms of kidney cancer until the disease is very far advanced.”

The cough was unrelated to the cancer, but the tumor may have caused some shortness of breath.

Music has been a godsend for Floride. She began singing after her mother died, and she was left to care for her five siblings, her son and her sister’s four children while working two jobs. Floride’s pastor told her to sing or “just make some noise.”

By visualizing the song lyrics, she felt solace. It would be a much-needed practice in the future.

Years later, when Floride told her family she had cancer, they were alarmed. They already lost four family members to the disease. “I’ve seen tragedy, but I still have hope that I learned from my mom and from praying,” says 55-year-old Floride.

In June 2017, Floride had a robotic nephrectomy at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

A week later, friends were shocked to see her walking. “I had no walker. No bleeding. No pain,” she says. Robotic surgery offers patients shorter recovery times, less bleeding and fewer complications.

Early one morning after the surgery, Floride heard knocking on her door. “It was a deaf woman. I had to
get up and help her. She didn’t have food or housing,” says Floride, who is a deaf interpreter at Third New Hope Baptist Church in Detroit. “While I was doing for that woman, I felt God was doing for me.”

Floride was doing something else for herself, too — singing along with her church choir’s CD.

“These songs give me hope for a better day. Each song took me through a particular moment as I was dealing with the cancer,” Floride says. “You can tell yourself something, and you’ll start believing it.”

Recalling some lyrics, she sings, “‘I’ll be down today, but tomorrow in the morning my joy is coming . . . My sickness and pain — He’s gonna change into singing and praising.’”

Floride advises people to tell their story and give it a melody. Then it will turn into a song. “We all have to walk on the same hard path,” she says. “Wouldn’t you rather be happy during the walk?”

These days, Floride advocates for cancer patients in the Deaf community. “The Big C will not control
you if you don’t let it. You have to find peace within yourself to keep going,” Floride says. “Ask your doctor questions — and most of all, trust God.”

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