Most young people eight months out from their wedding would be composing registry lists and finalizing venue details. However, Dr. Garrett Brown, who hails from Live Oak, and his fiancée, Alex Anne Spencer, are preparing to leave in less than two weeks to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, raising funds for cancer patients. Garrett and Alex Anne are placing their first priorities at this time in their lives on this monumental cancer fundraiser.
Garrett’s parents, Gary and Deb-Rose Brown, live in Live Oak, where Deb-Rose is a teacher at Suwannee Intermediate School. Prior to his cancer diagnosis two years ago, Gary was a long-time assistant state attorney with the Third Judicial Circuit. Garrett’s brothers, twins Stuart and Jackson, are medical students at the University of Florida College of Medicine. The Browns are a close family, drawn together even more so as they wage this battle against cancer alongside their husband and father.
In 2014, Garrett’s father, Gary, was diagnosed with two types (leukemia and prostate) of stage 4 terminal cancer. Garrett, who obtained his medical degree from Florida State University College of Medicine in 2013, had just begun his first year of residency at UF Shands when his father began his treatment there. Garrett says that watching his father go through the difficult treatments is what motivated him to become involved with cancer patients and fundraising through the non-profit Climb for Cancer Foundation. Alex Anne’s mother is a 25 year survivor of Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her cancer surgeries and treatment were also at UF Shands. Alex Anne joins Garrett in this fundraising climb to honor and celebrate her mother’s 25 years of life since her diagnosis, her health and beating cancer.
Garrett learned of the foundation and climb through a Gainesville friend who lost a sister to cancer. His friend is raising money and climbing in memory of her sister. Garrett and Alex Anne became committed to participating nine or 10 months ago and have been training since for the challenging climb. Garrett shared that he has climbed mountains in Hawaii and hiking in the Appalachian mountains, however nothing of this magnitude. When asked what his greatest challenge would be, he replied, “the altitude and oxygen. I’m also taking a crash course in wilderness medicine.” (Humor intentional!) The two are focusing on cardiovascular and aerobics training. They have been training on the steps of “The Swamp” at Florida Field in Gainesville.
Joining Garrett and Alex Anne on the climb, expected to take seven days, will be three other Gainesville residents and five other individuals from across the world. Garrett spoke highly of the founder of the Climb for Cancer Foundation, Ron Farb. He noted that Farb and his wife work tirelessly for the foundation while taking no salary or building in any type of administrative fees. All funds raised by the foundation go directly to provide services or needed items to cancer patients served by UF Shands in Gainesville. The funds enable children to attend a special camp for children with cancer (Camp Sunshine). They help alleviate financial burdens for cancer patients and their families incurred by travel, prescription costs and many other costs associated with care.
The foundation was established in 2002. It is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. For additional information or if you would like to donate go to www.cfc-foundation.org/goto/garrettbrown.
Garrett’s personal goal is to raise $16,000. As of this writing he has raised $10,609. If you would like to donate, checks should be made to “Climb for Cancer Foundation” and mailed to Garrett Brown, MD, 3538 NW 25th Terrace, Gainesville, FL 32605. Please note that time is of the essence in view of the March 1 departure. If you have any questions for Garrett, please e-mail him at Garrett.Brown@medicine.ufl.edu.
Garrett’s dad, Gary, said he couldn’t be prouder of his son.
"God has blessed us with three wonderful boys, but I was in awe that Garrett wanted to take on such an amazing feat in my honor,” said Gary Brown. “I pray every day for God to wrap his protection around my boys and I pray that Garrett continues on God's path, even if it takes him to the top of the world's fourth tallest mountain."
Deb-Rose, Garrett's mother, added that, "with God's help we raised our boys to be godly men, to help others and to do the right thing. I am so proud of Garrett for living up to these expectations and for helping make more people aware that cancer does not discriminate. It will eventually touch your life or some close to you. I pray that God continues to bless Garrett on his endeavor."
Garrett says he has received support and donations from all over, including associates from the FSU College of Medicine, former associates at Shands Hospital in Sarasota and family and friends in Live Oak. He said in closing that “it means the world to have such great people in the community as we try to make a difference in peoples’ lives who need it most.”