Jean Brink says Waukon is exactly where she needs to be as she fights her battle with cancer

Honored for her service as she fights another battle ... Jean Brink of Waukon is currently battling Stage 3 metastatic breast cancer and will have a complete mastectomy as of the date of this publication. Knowing she would not be available for their originally scheduled November 11 Quilts of Valor presentation, the Waukon Patriot Quilters presented Brink (a U.S. Army veteran) with her own quilt this past week. Pictured above at that presentation, left to right, are Jean’s husband, Darryl Brink of Waukon; Jean’s son, First Sergeant Joshua Brink of Germany; Jean’s mother, Janet Kaufman of Waukon; Jean’s daughter-in-law, Traci Brink of North Carolina; Jean Brink; Jean’s adopted daughter, Amanda Downey of Ohio; and Jean’s adopted son, Master Sergeant Patrick Downey of Connecticut. Not pictured are Jean’s son, Sergeant First Class Christopher Brink of Germany; and her daughter, Tanya Brink of Waukon. Submitted photo.

Benefit event for U.S. Army veteran this Saturday

by Lissa Blake

In the years since U.S. Army veteran Jean Brink moved back to Waukon, she has questioned whether it was a good decision for her and her family. “I missed the military. I missed the city. I’ve asked myself so many times, ‘Why did we move back here?’” she said. But in February of this year, when Jean was diagnosed with Stage 3 metastatic breast cancer (HR positive/HER 2 negative), the answer became clear. “When I got sick, I realized this is where God wanted me. This is where I needed to be. There was a plan,” she said. “I don’t think there is anywhere else I could live in the world where I would get the support I needed.”

The former Jean Decker is a 1985 graduate of Waukon High School. Her husband, Darryl, a graduate of Decorah High School, joined the U.S. Army in 1986. After having three children - Tanya, Christopher and Joshua - Jean joined the Army in 1998. Over the years, the family was stationed in Germany, Colorado, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. Six years ago, she and her husband decided to return to their native northeast Iowa, because they wanted the peace and quiet it offers. “There’s something to be said about living somewhere where you can leave your house and car unlocked,” she said.

Since Jean’s diagnosis, she has had 16 rounds of chemotherapy. She was scheduled for surgery last month, but her white bloodcell count had dipped too low and she ended up hospitalized with pneumonia. The day this publication is dated (Wednesday, November 10), she will undergo a complete mastectomy with removal of her lymph nodes at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN. The surgery will last about six hours. Her follow-up treatment will include radiation.

Jean said she was extremely humbled last week when the Waukon Patriot Quilters set up a private ceremony for her to receive a Quilt of Valor at the Freedom Rock in Waukon. “It was wonderful. I can’t believe just how much people give, and how much people care here,” she said. When asked how she feels about that honor and an upcoming benefit event, she got emotional: “Oh my God. I just want to thank everybody. I was gone with the Army for over 25 years. We came back to this area because we wanted to live quietly… I am very humbled … just so much … by the amount of support and love from this community,” she said.

Jean’s friends and family have scheduled a benefit in her honor for this Saturday, November 13 at the Waukon Banquet Center. A silent auction will begin at 2 p.m. and last until 6 p.m. A meal will be served at 4:30 p.m. Cost is a freewill donation. A live auction will begin at 6 p.m. with number registration starting at 5:30 p.m. Tickets will be available for purchase for the 50/50 raffle and raffle entries need not be present to win the 50/50. Anyone wishing to donate to the event or to Jean’s cause should contact Nikki Iseli at 563-794-1049, or Bobbie Cowell 563-794-1048.