WENTZVILLE, Mo. – Cancer has touched a Wentzville, Missouri woman’s life in more ways than one, and now she’s giving back.

Bri Rogers-Brooks was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma in 2005 when she was 10 years old. Her father passed away from lung cancer in 2014 when she was 21. Now she uses his birthday as a way to help others.

Brooks’ personal journey with cancer started when she noticed a bump on the web of her left hand between her index finger and her thumb.

“It was a pretty hard bump, and I believe it started to bother me,” Brooks said. Her school nurse said it looked like a blood blister. The nurse called her mom and told her to reach out to their doctor.

Doctors performed a biopsy and diagnosed her with Ewing sarcoma on March 18, 2005, when she was a fifth grader at Green Tree Elementary. On that day, Brooks got off the school bus, and was met by her brothers, sisters, mom, dad, and grandma who asked if she wanted to go to the park. Her mom told her about her cancer diagnosis on the ride there.

“She made a promise to me that she knew she wasn’t sure she could keep,” Brooks said. “She promised me that everything would be ok, and that’s when my battle with cancer started.”

Brooks went through three rounds of chemotherapy. On July 15, 2005, doctors removed her left index finger. Doctors concluded she had a rare childhood cancer called epithelioid sarcoma.

“It was really scary,” Brooks said. “My mom was like my main person.”

Brooks said her classmates were very supportive that year. She was pulled out of school but allowed to go to her fifth-grade graduation. Throughout her fight, her close friends made her special cards and gave her stuffed animals.

“I still have all of that stuff because that stuff means a whole lot to me so I never wanted to get rid of it,” Brooks said.

Sixth grade was a tale of two stories. Due to new school district lines, Brooks was supposed to go to Frontier Middle School. Instead, she decided to start the year with her sister at Wentzville South Middle School. She remembers having either no hair or it was just starting to grow back. So she was still wearing bandanas.

“Everybody there was great,” Brooks said.

A special education teacher worked at the school, and Brooks spent time with her because she also battled cancer.

“She would let me come in her room. She would let me take naps and just hang out with her. She was very supportive,” Brooks said. “She actually brought in three different wigs that she had when she was battling cancer. She let me pick one out so that I could wear it if I wanted to.”

She wanted to be with her elementary school friends who were now at Frontier so she switched.

“After cancer, I had a really rough time with school. I never wanted to go. I didn’t want to be there,” Brooks said. “I would wear long-sleeve shirts to cover up my hand.”

One girl at Frontier called her an alien.

“That kind of put a downer on school,” Brooks said.

She ended up doing an alternative program for high school while working at Sonic and St. Louis Bread Co.

“I didn’t think I would graduate,” Brooks said. “I thought I was going to be a high school dropout.” She graduated in 2012.

After graduation, she decided to take a break and thought she would start college in a year.

“I always wanted to be an oncologist or a registered nurse on the ninth floor at Children’s Hospital,” Brooks said. “I had it set in stone where I wanted to work, what I wanted to do.”

Soon after graduation, Brooks’ dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The doctor gave him six months to live. Following his diagnosis, Brooks found out she was pregnant in December 2012 even though she thought she couldn’t get pregnant. Brooks went to urgent care because she was bleeding. They then sent her to the emergency room. She was able to get help there and gave birth to a healthy daughter in September 2013.

“She has been my pride and joy and biggest blessing and biggest miracle,” Brooks said.

Her dad lived past the doctor’s six-month prognosis allowing him to spend time with his granddaughter, Briella.

“He loved her so much,” Brooks said. “While I would work, he and my grandma would watch the baby.”

He passed away in April 2014 when Brooks was 21.

Brooks had her son Brylan in December 2016.

Every year they celebrate her dad’s life on his birthdate and on his death date. Then in November 2019, she wanted to do more for her dad’s birthday.

“I want to give back. I’m going to see how much help I can get and how much stuff I can raise and make this happen,” Brooks said. “I got so many donations.”

She and her family packed book bags with fun things for the kids to do while they’re at Children’s Hospital where Brooks did her chemotherapy. They also made gift bags for the adults at Siteman Cancer center. They were all filled with donations from family, friends, coworkers, and businesses.

Brooks said COVID put a damper on this effort, but she hopes to do it again in the future.

Brooks wants anyone going through cancer treatment to remember to “Stay strong, you’re a fighter. Live every day like it’s your last because you really never know when that’s going to be.”