Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive May 2017 Show 1720 Single Mom Overcomes Odds

Single Mom Overcomes Odds

Mandii Brower turned the darkest days of her life into an inspiring story of sacrifice and transformation.
Single Mom Overcomes Odds

Single Mom Overcomes Odds

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CareerTech - Making It Work

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Show Details

Show 1720: Single Mom Overcomes Odds
Air Date: May 14, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, the traditional career path for many young people is to graduate high school, go to college or technical school and then land their first job. However, for some, hardships can arise which can push them from that path – be it poverty, illness or being a single parent. But that doesn’t need to mean the end of a dream. Every year, Oklahoma CareerTech, along with the Career and Technical Education Equity Council, honor these nontraditional students, along with their teachers, and organizations who help them throughout the state, during the Making It Work Day at the state Capitol. Now, all of these individuals have unique stories of overcoming hardships, be they physical, economic or otherwise, all in an effort to help them become the career professionals they dream of.

Rob McClendon: And we begin today’s show with one such story. Just five years ago, Mandii Brower was a single mother of two with no money, no home and few options. But through her own strong will and the support of others, she turned it all around. Our Blane Singletary has her story.

Blane Singletary: Today, Mandii Brower relishes the opportunity to tell her story. But just a few years ago, this was probably the last place she imagined she would be.

Mandii Brower: I was in Fort Hood, Texas. I was in the hospital, having a baby, and I really -- mentally and emotionally I was in a bad place.

Blane: Mandii was already a mother, one, in an abusive relationship and far from her Oregon home. And in that hospital, things took a turn for the worse.

Mandii Brower: When I was having my baby I got a phone call that I was no longer gonna be married, and I was gonna become a single mom, and he was done. Those were the last words from him.

Blane: Mandii was abandoned, broke and, as a high school dropout, had few options to support her children.

Mandii Brower: I’d never worked a day in my life. I’d been a military wife since I was 16, and that’s all I knew how to do, was be a mom to my 10-month-old and now my newborn. So I had no idea what I was gonna do.

Blane: With her mom and dad out of the picture, her closest relative was her brother, also in the military. She moved in with him when he was stationed in Oklahoma, but she knew she didn’t want to mooch off him forever.

Mandii Brower: I was like, well, what do I want to do with my life because I have to do something to support these kids. So I called my grandma, and I was like, “What do I do?” And she was like “Well, why don’t you become a nurse? Is that an option for you?” And that day I had met with my DHS worker, and she had told me about the nursing program and how that could be an option. But I was like, well, OK, she said it, my grandma said it. That must be it.

Blane: By October 2013, she had enrolled in CV Tech’s nursing program, one of the best and most challenging nursing programs in the state. Mandii told us going back to school after that long wasn’t easy.

Mandii Brower: My 10-month-old was now 2 at this point. And I’ve never been without her. She’s been by my side 24/7 her entire life. I didn’t know what I was gonna do without my kids. I hated it. You know, when we went home that night, I just cried and cried and cried and cried. And then my almost 2-year-old then, she was like, “It’s OK. I love school!”

Blane: Along the way she had support, from CV Tech staff like Daniel Brower, who would later become her husband, and program instructor Cecila “Cici” Harroald.

Mandii Brower: I really give a lot of my success to her, ’cause I definitely, you know, I couldn’t have done it. I would’ve given up.

Blane: She didn’t give up, and when she graduated from the program in October 2015, it came time to prepare for the nursing board exam to earn her license. And that’s when things took another turn.

Mandii Brower: I was like kind of on a high. Like, I did this, I finished school. I’m gonna study for boards, and then I got the phone call from my doctor that I had cancer.

Blane: A screening had revealed a softball-sized tumor on her ovary – too big to remove. She was once again in a tragic situation, with difficult decisions going forward.

Mandii Brower: It was more of a like a, “Why me?” Like, I’ve done so well. I’ve accomplished what most people couldn’t in a very, very, very long time. And I was worried for my kids. It was tough to think that I was gonna have to leave my girls. That’s all I kept thinking was, “Who’s gonna take care of my girls? Who’s gonna be there for my girls?” You know, I told my now-husband, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do the chemo. I don’t want to fight this. I can’t. I don’t have the strength. I don’t have the energy. I just -- I don’t.”

Blane: And in this life or death situation laid the greatest challenge: trust -- trusting the medical professionals she aspired to be.

Mandii Brower: I pick a word every year that I kind of pray about and things like that and my word for that year was trust because I have, you know, understandably a lot of trust issues. I don’t trust people very easily, and I definitely have, my faith in God was not where it should have been. And so I was like, “OK, I’ll do it.”

Blane: She went through an aggressive chemo regimen over the course of the next several months. And when it was finally over, she decided the board exam couldn’t wait any longer. Giving herself only a week to study, she dove in. The pressure was on, even after the test was completed.

Mandii Brower: Cici actually texted me, and she goes, “You know we can see who has an active nursing license online, right?” So she sent me the link, and I slowly typed in my last name, and I sat there and stared and thought, “Do I want to hit this enter key? Do I want to do this?” And I did, and it said that I had an active nursing license. It was a pretty good time. It was very unexpected from being, you know, and I even told him that day I never thought four years ago that I would be here saying I’m a nurse. Like I’m actually, by law, I’m a nurse, like, I can help people, by law! [laughs].

Blane: To Mandii, getting that license wasn’t just the culmination of a long fought quest. It also meant that she was independent. After being helped through the years, she was finally in a position to help others.

Mandii Brower: I wanted to be independent, and I wanted to help fund these programs through my taxes. No one likes to pay taxes, obviously. But when you can see the work that they go to, when you can see the good that some of the stuff that you’re paying into does, it makes a huge difference.

Blane: Today, Mandii works as a nurse with Allied Medical. She just moved into a new house with her family, and as of January, the cancer is gone. At the end of it all, Mandii says these ordeals helped shape who she is today. If there’s one word she could give her past self, it would be trust.

Mandii Brower: I would tell myself, “You’re gonna be fine!” You know, there’s little things along the road that I would say, you know, “Maybe you shouldn’t do this and do this instead.” But those things were, I look back and be like, “Why did I do that?” morphed who I am now, and made me as strong as I am now, and, you know, it made me a better mom and a better nurse and a better wife. I would tell myself it’s worth it. If I had to go back and do it all over and start from scratch and do everything again, I would.

Rob: Now, next week, we will bring you more stories from Making It Work Day at the state Capitol that show how business and industry is helping break the poverty cycle. Now, when we return, we go into a simulation birthing suite that feels very real thanks to technology and some creative teaching.