Reality Star’s Real Life Triumph Over Toughest Opponent of All
Brandi Maxiell may be known for her dueling arguments as a reality star on VH1’s “Basketball Wives L.A.,” but in real life she’s battled a much tougher opponent – that is, ovarian cancer.
Maxiell was planning her dream wedding to NBA player Jason Maxiell in 2007 when she was stricken with excruciating back pain in the prime of her life.
“I had just graduated from college and I was engaged, so I thought I was going to come to Detroit, live with my fiancé and have a lifetime of fun,” Maxiell said.
“Literally three weeks into living in Detroit, I started to feel all these symptoms. So I went to the doctor and they told me it was just back pains. They gave me medicine for it but after I was taking the medicine for a few months it was like,
my back still hurts.
If that wasn’t bad enough, her symptoms continued to get worse.
“Then my stomach started looking funny,” Maxiell continues. “I was getting full after only a few bites of food, but I was bloated and huge. It looked like I was four or five months pregnant. I had to use the bathroom constantly. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it to the toilet.”
After numerous tests and blood work, Maxiell was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was only 24.
“I had every single symptom,” she recalls.
The diagnosis was even more of a shock to the Dallas, Texas native, given that her family had no history of cancer.
“I was devastated because I was healthy and my family is healthy so it was something that was new to me. When I thought of cancer, I thought it was a death sentence…I just felt like my life was over.
“But it still didn’t hit me or register. I just really thought it wasn’t true,” she said. “Still they knew something was very wrong and they had to do immediate surgery.”
Doctors promptly put Maxiell on a grueling cancer-battling schedule.
“I went into surgery to remove the malignant tumor and then I went straight into chemotherapy for almost five months. Going through chemotherapy, the first time, I was kind of pumped like ‘lets get this thing rolling, let’s get cured, let’s just go.’
“I was more worried about losing my hair. I felt that would be the worst part—because when a woman loses her hair, she almost loses who she is as a woman. And I lost every inch of hair.”
Still, the worst was far from over.
“But as time went on I started feeling like my body was deteriorating, like my body was shutting down,” Maxiell recalls. “I had blood clots due to the surgery itself. I had inflamed lungs from the side effects of chemo. It was hard to even take two steps without feeling like I was about to pass out.
“My mom suffered as much as I did. She had to cover up mirrors in my house because I couldn’t look at myself. To sit and watch my mom in so much pain, no mother should have to see their child go through what I went through–not knowing what was going to happen. Seeing her, I thought I really needed to get well for her.
“I remember my mom telling me that she was praying really hard. She said ‘I spoke to God and He wanted me to know that everything is going to be okay.’ When I was cancer free, so was she.”
Nearly half a year later, Maxiell went into remission.
“It was a freeing moment. I was so happy and felt like I could live my life. I felt like I dedicated a lot of energy to the cancer so I could get well, so it was such a struggle. I was so weak. I could barely get out of bed. I could barely eat. But when they said I was done, that was the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.
“And me having cancer brought me closer to God because I think I was kind of losing my way a little bit,” she adds.
After doctors cleared her, Maxiell and Jason—who remained one of her biggest supporters—finally wed.
“And then the fertility issues came about,” she said.
“The cancer had affected my ability to conceive. My fertility was off. They didn’t know if they had saved enough of my ovaries for me to even have a baby.”
Maxiell tried unsuccessfully to conceive for three years until she began IVF treatments. Today she is the proud mother of a two-year-old “miracle baby.”
With that, Maxiell, now 30, agreed to appear on “Basketball Wives” as a platform for bringing awareness to disease and remind women to listen to their bodies. A burden she felt compelled to carry while sitting one day in chemo.
“I remember going to the cancer clinics and looking around and thinking ‘We all look the same. No matter if you're black, white, Chinese, Korean - when you have chemo, your hair falls out, you lose weight, you look sick, everyone looks alike. We are just different shades of colors.”
Maxiell, who owns Midway Salon & Suites in Dallas, is remaining positive despite the drama she knew she’d be sucked into by starring in a controversial reality show.
“I’m sharing my story because I want women to listen to their body. You live with it. You sleep with it. If you know there’s something wrong with you, listen to that inner voice and seek help,” says Maxiell, who has teamed up with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) to spread the word and educate the public about ovarian cancer.
“I’m alive today because I didn’t ignore the symptoms, and what my body was saying to me.”