The Sunday Series (83), with Mark Brodinsky

It’s not what controls you, it’s what you control. You get to decide how to live your life. You get to make the choice. You can choose to react, or respond. You make this life happen.

Everyone has a story.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (83): Mind Over Matter

“The one thing I want people to know is to keep your life as normal as you can, do not let it control you. You keep control. You are in control of your life and it is mind over matter. When I decided I wasn’t ready to die is when my thought process changed and I think it’s when everything turned around for us.”

brandy with hair

For Brandy Akers it seemed like she was simply getting in better shape. Her physical responsibilities as a night nurse at Hanover Hospital in Pennsylvania had increased. She was moving patients around a lot more and by doing so was adding muscle tone in her breast area. But as her breast started to take on a more vertical shape she paid a visit to her doctor. It was decided the new muscle and a knot in that muscle was simply that – a knot – and nothing to worry about.

That was February of this year.  By the time summer hit its peak, it was time to worry.

The “muscle knot” was getting bigger and there was pain resonating from Brandy’s sternum. Another visit to the doctor and this time an MRI told the story – it wasn’t muscle, it was a mass. Breast cancer. “My first thought”, says Brandy, “is this is regular breast cancer. I was upset it was breast cancer because cancer is never a good thing, but of all the cancers at least it is a pretty beatable cancer. The hardest part was once we knew it was cancer they told us it was estrogen-driven. I have two children now and our family plan was to move back to Maryland get a new house and have a baby next year. With estrogen-driven cancer there was no chance of another baby.”

But disappointment over having another child quickly took a backseat to a much bigger issue. An MRI of the mass had revealed some abnormal cells in Brandy’s sternum. A bone biopsy was ordered and by early September Brandy and her husband Darby had some new information, stage 4 cancer.

Brandy says, “the night the doctor called and told me it was possibly stage 4 cancer I made the mistake of googling it. And the numbers that started popping up were a life expectancy of 2-to-4 years. My thoughts were if I died in two years Skylar (age 6) and Deegan (age 5) are not going to remember me. They will remember they had a mommy and can look at pictures, but they won’t remember my voice, or the things that we did. With them being so young it wouldn’t allow them to remember the special things.”

skylar and deegan akers family

“From that moment when I learned it was stage 4 cancer there were two days where I cried a lot, called out to work, couldn’t sleep or function. All I could think was I can’t die. I’m 33, it’s not my time. But then I pretty much dusted myself off and told myself there is too much to live for, there is too much to do, we are going to fight, going to win and keep going.”

When faced with life or death if you choose to live – it can make all the difference. Others are inspired by your resolve, your fight, your decision to take a stand. If life is going to hit you hard, you need to punch back with even more force. And it doesn’t hurt to have a great coach in your corner. For Brandy, it’s her husband Darby.

Brandy says Darby has been there for everything, from the original breast biopsy appointment – where he asked all the right questions – to sitting with her on the couch, tears for both of them, trying to understand, to comprehend why life had taken this turn. And it’s Darby’s surprise to Brandy which has brought her battle to the masses.  Brandy says, “before we found out it was stage 4 cancer, Darby had created a private Facebook page, Team Brandy, and he had invited all his friends and my friends onto the page and it was a secret at this point. A page to offer support and lift me up. The day we found out it was stage 4, is the day he gave me access to the page.” (

Brandy continues, “I think the page is his release. He put out there how he is feeling about it. Something for him to dig into and focus on without saying it was only bad news.”

And because of social media Brandy says fundraisers have started popping up everywhere. Pampered Chef parties and Mary Kay parties and T-shirts being printed. And there is a meal schedule created for people to come and make meals and to clean the house for the Akers family. For Brandy this part has been the toughest. “That part was really hard for me”, she says. “It was really hard for me to be OK with other people coming in to my house to clean and make food because I’m a very independent person. I had to step back and say its OK for other people to help me.”

Brandy and Darby have also been as open as they can with their children and while there is no talk of their mommy not “being here”, there is discussion of the reality of cancer, chemo treatments, hair loss, upcoming surgery and other people coming into their home to help.  And Skylar and Deegan are a big part of the process and of Brandy’s purpose. Brandy says after she and Darby sat the kids down to explain everything, at the end of the conversation Skylar calmly said she “wasn’t scared”.

“We let the kids shave my head last Sunday”, says Brandy. “We want to let them feel included in everything. Wanted them to shave my head to let them know I am in charge. The pictures are out there on the Facebook page. My husband shaved his head and remarkably some of my friends have shaved their heads as well.”

deegan shaves Brandy skylar shaves Brandy brandy and darby bald

The overwhelming support of friends, family and even strangers is in abundance. But what about the road ahead? Brandy says normally stage 4 breast cancer is typically treated with estrogen-blocking medication and palliative care, meaning the end is coming. But Brandy’s doctor has other ideas. He told Brandy she is not a typical case, she is young and to give her pills and tell her to go live her life is a “death sentence” to her. Instead the doctor found a case study where women who had localized stage 4 cancer, (like the one in Brandy’s sternum), instead were treated like a stage 2 cancer: chemo, surgery, then radiation and 25% of them were cured after 15 years. So that’s the process here. Brandy began chemotherapy September 11th and will continue with treatments every other Friday until mid-December.

The goal is to make the cancer small enough to remove, have Brandy undergo a mastectomy and then begin radiation. And after only one round of chemo there is progress, good news to report. The doctor says the mass in the sternum is already smaller, even though typically no change is seen until after the second or third round of chemo.

Hope. Progress. Small victories. It all matters. When asked what has helped her the most, even early into this journey, Brandy says this:

“Probably just the belief that I’m a mommy and I need to be here for my kids. I’m a mommy, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a nurse and I need to keep going and I can’t sit down and let it take over, I have to live my life. I’m all those things and I just happen to have cancer, but it’s not going to stop me. It doesn’t define me and it’s not going to take me. A lot of people keep telling me how inspirational I am and how I’m still smiling and still happy and my answer to that is I have to be, because if not I let the cancer win. And I’m not going to let it win. This is my life and I am in charge and truthfully I’m not doing anything that anyone else wouldn’t do.”

brandy on today show

Brandy’s words ring true. When faced with adversity and a challenge it’s how you respond that can make all the difference. But it might just be the way others have responded that has made the biggest difference for Brandy and her perspective on life:

“I want to say if there is anything that comes out of this it is that humanity is restored in my eyes. The amount of people who have responded, sending cards and money and flowers and gift cards to my house is amazing. I don’t know them all and I don’t know how to thank them. There is no way for me to keep up with the amount of things coming in and it is an extremely humbling feeling. I can’t wait to get past this and to pay it forward.”

This is Brandy’s fight song – battle back and then give back. Use mind over matter and truly make life matter.

brandy and darby muscles

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.


(October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for more information: (

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

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October Calling (2): It’s Just About… Life

great fall pic

For some reason, of all the blogs I have done in the recent few years, this one gets more hits (views) every day than any other and for no specific reason I can think of. Anyway, since October is beginning again I figured I would update and re-post the content.  Here is October Calling (2):

Let’s face it, Fall really begins in earnest today. Though the calendar says we are well on our way, it’s not until October that change really begins. And change is not bad, it’s just…different.

Fall might be the biggest season of change, especially when there is a day which brings about a hint of winter and the hibernation to come, so the goal is to be aware of what’s right in front of you – the beauty of change all around you. Embrace that change in season, in color, in the weather and do the same with change in your life, whether it be today, or tomorrow. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. And if you’re not growing, you’re not going…anywhere special.


The coming month signals the warm-up to the warmest time of the year – a renewed sense of family and fellowship as we (and the retailers) start to think about the coming holiday season – it seems far off, until it’s at your doorstep. Time running at break-neck speed during what should be a season to coast. But Mother Nature has other ideas. She brings October in with a burst of color – leaves of red, brown, green, and yellow — until she suddenly leaves, turning a cold eye like a woman scorned and we’re left to huddle up and face the change from another visitor – Old Man winter.

October is calling. This time two years ago, October 2013 came calling and a change happened for myself and my family, as the book, It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story, became a #1 Best-Seller on Amazon, a change in our lives which still resonates today, with an evergreen message of courage, hope and inspiration.

book is number one

October is calling. Heed the call. Get in the game – embrace the change – it’s up to you.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

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The Sunday Series (82), with Mark Brodinsky

This is really what started it all: courage, hope and inspiration.

Before The Sunday Series and my mission began to share other people’s stories with the world, there was the book.

September 26, 2013 we published our very personal journey, It Takes 2: Surviving Breast Cancer. A Spouse’s Story, a compilation of journal entries I kept as my wife Debbie battled back from breast cancer and a double mastectomy during 2012-2013. This weekend marks two years since the book first went into worldwide distribution, and the most important part, it’s now been nearly 3-1/2 years that Debbie is cancer-free.

Just yesterday there I stood at a charity event, with my daughter Sophie by my side, as Bonnie Stein, Chairwoman of the Healthcare Board for GBMC, approached us to say she read the book cover-to-cover in a single afternoon and how she thought it so rare I could tap into the feelings and emotions of the breast cancer journey and how brave Debbie was through her battle. Most importantly she said what an inspiration it would be for other people going through the same journey.  It made me proud to have Sophie there to hear again why the book became a reality in the first place.

sophie with mom sign

Courage, hope and inspiration. That’s the point. That’s why I wrote it. That’s why I published it. That’s why it continues to resonate, to help others along their way in the battle against the beast. To inspire others who are forced to become breast cancer warriors and survivors.

To mark the anniversary of It Takes 2 and as we stand at the doorstep of Breast Cancer Awareness Month beginning this Thursday, October 1st, I thought it appropriate to re-post the blog dedicated to the launch of It Takes 2, for this latest installment of The Sunday Series.

After all, everyone has a story.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (82): It Takes 2, The Worldwide Launch (Revisited)

newsmall2013 08 15 It Takes Two (v2)

I believe our lives and our hearts can be as big and as deep as the ocean. With that belief in mind, today I throw a pebble in the water…and make a wave.

It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Journey is officially published and launched into worldwide distribution. A dream realized, yes. But the dream doesn’t end here, remember it’s the journey not the destination. Today, the next journey begins. You, me, together making a difference. The book is just the beginning, a way to share my heart, a way to give back, a way to be transformed, my life and yours.

This is how the Acknowledgement of It Takes 2 begins:

“The Roman Poet Horace says: Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which, in prosperous times, would have lain dormant. If not for Debbie (my wife), her illness, her fight, her courage, and her inspiration, I never would have gone back to my roots to write, to share emotion, love, and perspective in a way which has transformed me and apparently others who have been touched by our story.”

A little more than a year and a half ago we were thrust into the nightmare of a major decision. Cancer forced our hand, and my wife forced herself to make the sacrifice too many have had to make before, to save herself and our family. It took guts, determination, fight, courage and a ton of love, not just inside our own home, but from the hundreds who helped us along the way and from the thousands who followed our journey every step of the way on the pages of my online journal. If you don’t know the story, or even if you do, when I’m done here, at the bottom of my blog, click on the link and buy the book.

I wrote a book! I think my heart just skipped a beat. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I wrote Debbie a letter in the beginning of the year, as I embarked on a program called, Living Your Best Year Ever, telling her she wouldn’t recognize the person I would become by the end of 2013. I am on a journey to become more, by helping others, by sharing, by inspiring, giving back. A huge step in that direction has happened. I am an author. I am sharing a story of courage and a message of hope. And together, you and I, well the possibilities are endless. Just believe. If we show a little love, heaven knows what we can change.

A portion of proceeds from sales of It Takes 2, will be going back to a number of cancer organizations, not just those who treat, but those focused on support, education and prevention. It took two to battle the beast, it will take many, many more than that to put a stop to this illness that threatens the health of women all over the world. We need to find a way to kick this bitch down the block, so women can live their lives without fear. Women give and sustain life, they should be rewarded, not threatened by some illness and forced to fight for their own lives.

Before I wrap it up here, I just want to say one more thing, and I wish I could say it in person to each and every one of you who followed the journal and who follow and respond to this blog, (between the two we number over 200,000 views now), you have touched my heart and given my life purpose in ways you can never begin to imagine. More importantly, you have helped me find my why and my way. This blog is a labor of love like nothing I have ever felt,. It gets me up early in the morning, before the sun and it keeps me up late at night, with the moon high in the sky and the minutes sometimes ticking past midnight. And I love every minute of it. And I love you for paying attention.

When you find your passion and your purpose, you never again work a day in your life. That is my ultimate goal, and because of you, I’m getting there.

The book link is coming. So will my next book, in the not-too-distant future. My goal is to turn The Sunday Series into a book in 2016. Right now, I will be happy if you will read this one. Go ahead, come with me, toss a pebble in the water… and make a wave.

And now, the link. It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

ravens family pic sophie kisses debbie

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark Brodinsky, Author








Holy Selfie!: It’s Just About… Life

pope takes a selfie

Pope Francis welcome to America. And I’ve gotta tell you, I’m jealous. I’m not Catholic, but who doesn’t want the chance to pop-a-pic with the pontiff??

Look I too was touched by the Pope’s words as he addressed the crowd yesterday on the White House lawn and the TV audience from around the world.  He spoke about working together with Americans to build a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive,  safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.

pope and president

But since he arrived on American soil for the first time in his life Pope Francis has been a social media sensation, and doing the one thing that makes me jealous – posing for selfies!


Look you can probably convince most people to do it – but this guy is the Pope for God’s sake. 😉   How cool is that?  A selfie with arguably the most famous person on the planet. Forget all the religion (and politics) for a minute, here is the highest-ranking Catholic on the planet and he is willing to pose for selfies, because he knows that nowadays it’s the way to reach the masses. I know he’s done it before in other parts of the world – but this is his first time on US soil and he’s all in for the social media onslaught.

The Pope’s Twitter account has more than 23 million followers, in nine languages, he’s the most re-tweeted leader in the world and he calls the internet a gift from God.  Pope Francis is no slouch when it comes to drawing a crowd and building a massive social medial presence, heck he doesn’t even need to try, so the whole selfie thing makes it all the more interesting.

And what does it do for your Twitter or Facebook account if you get to post a pic with the Holy Father? I mean holy you-know-what, the follows and likes are off the charts, almost heavenly if you will. 😉 16-year-old Enija Davidonyte popped her pic with the pontiff after he visited a Lithuanian school in DC and then posted it to Facebook and it’s been around the world and back by now. The kid is going places… if she’s lucky maybe one day the pic gets her a special place at the pearly gates.


And if you can’t get up-close-and-personal with the pontiff, then do the next best thing – channel some of that papal magic into your own home like this family did with their “pet pontiff”.

dog as pope

The point is, this is fun. The Pope seems to be having a blast, the people in America who get to meet him are enthralled and the social media world is on fire.

It’s not a bad way to add that special touch to your week… a Holy Selfie with Pope Francis.

I want mine…. :(

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors

Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

The Podcast: (

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