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CTCA Cancer Fighters Award Meet Les Brown: Cancer Fighters Perseverance Award recipient
Les Brown Perseverance Award recipient

Meet Les Brown: Cancer Fighters Perseverance Award recipient

Meet Leslie—or, as he'll genially ask you to call him, Les Brown. At 77 years young, Les has lived an extraordinary life and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he's the first to tell you he's a 35-year-old stuck in an older body.

Les is a loving son, father, grandfather, published author, former television talk show host, retired radio disc jockey, established motivational speaker, the recipient of Toastmasters'® Golden Gavel award and a self-described cancer "conqueror."

He also is one of our Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) 2021 Cancer Fighters Perseverance Award recipients. This is his story.

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Les grew up in Miami, Fla., in a family of seven children—after he and his twin brother were adopted as babies. He recalls experiencing some difficulties in school, but he graduated in 1963 and began a string of career changes. He started working as a garbage collector (though, as Les will tell you, he often described himself to possible romantic suitors as a “sanitation executive”). From there, he soon shifted to radio, and his hard work and dedication to learning a new craft paid off when he earned a permanent slot as a disc jockey. His radio career began to skyrocket, and Les relocated to Columbus, Ohio. But then, he pivoted again, eventually becoming a three-term member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Still, his story took yet another unexpected turn when a question in a book got him thinking: “If you have six months to live, what would you do differently than you’re doing now?” This shifted his priorities, he says, and he returned home to Miami to care for his adoptive mother, Mamie Brown, who was battling breast cancer.

In 1992, Les found himself facing a cancer diagnosis, too. When the doctor delivered the news of his stage 4 prostate cancer—including that the disease had metastasized to seven areas of his body and eaten 43 percent of his T1 vertebrae—Les says he smiled thinking about the number seven.

“I wanted seven children. I was born February the 17th. Joshua marched around the walls of Jericho seven times [in the Bible]; Naaman dipped himself in the River Jordan seven times. Seven is my lucky number,” he recalls telling the doctor.

In the past 29 years, Les has embodied the “cancer conqueror” spirit and has focused, post-diagnosis, on living an even more impactful life. Specifically, Les has sought to focus on laughter, helping others and touching as many lives as possible. Les credits his tenacity, lifestyle changes, his treatment plan and faith with carrying him through the difficult days.

In early 2021, Les learned more about his birth family, which further fueled his hunger to make a meaningful impact. His birth mother, Dorothy Belle Rucker, was an educator and motivational speaker. His grandmother, Beulah Rucker Oliver, had been equally hungry to learn and taught herself to read with the newspapers that insulated the family home, according to Les.

As Les reflects on the effects that his birth mother and adoptive mother have had on his life of triumphs and tenacity, he says, “Dorothy Belle gave me life, Mamie Brown taught me how to live life.” In honor of his grandmother’s legacy, Les has selected her alma mater, Savannah State University, as his nonprofit beneficiary of the award.

CTCA® is honored to name Les Brown as one of our 2021 Cancer Fighters Perseverance Award recipients.