Brandi Maxiell may have upset a few cast members when she joined season three of the Basketball Wives LA last month, but the drama is nothing in comparison to the reality star’s battle with ovarian cancer.
In 2007 — at just 24-years-old — the wife of Orlando Magic power forward Jason Maxiell learned her life had changed forever.
In a new exclusive interview with Life & Style, the mom-of-one opens up about her battle and revealed how, at one point, she could not even bring herself to look in the mirror.
“When I was diagnosed, I had just graduated from college and I was engaged, so I thought I was going to come to Detroit [where she was living at the time], live with my fiancé and I thought I was going to have a lifetime of fun,” she tells Life & Style
“Literally three weeks of me living in Detroit, I started to feel all these symptoms and my life went for a turn.”
Brandi explains the diagnosis came as quite a shock because there’s no history of cancer in her family.
The beauty underwent weeks of chemotherapy. She lost weight and all of her hair. At one point, she didn’t even recognize herself.
“Besides the losing of the hair, I was so sick! You know, it’s like poison going through my body, so I couldn’t move. I was so weak,” an emotional Brandi says.
“My mom thought I was so bad. She had to cover up mirrors in my house because I couldn’t look at myself. I was like, ‘Who is this person?’ I lost so much weight.
“I was just devastated. I just wanted to shave my hair off at the beginning because I knew it was going to come out.
"I think the hardest thing about it all was losing my hair because when a woman loses her hair, you lose who you are as a woman. I lost every inch of hair like my eyebrows, my nose hair — everything.
"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."
After her life-changing diagnosis in 2007, Brandi, now 30, admits she braced herself for the worst.
“When I thought of cancer, I thought it was a death sentence…I just felt like my life was over,” she explains.
But after she came to terms with the sickness and had surgery, her relationship with God made her stronger.
“I think me having cancer brought me closer to God because I think I was kind of losing my way a little bit,” she shares.
Though it was a heartbreaking time for her fiancé as well, he was there with her every step of the way.
“He visited me every week in Dallas [she was there during treatement]…he shaved his hair off and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Those are like the moments I remember,” she says.
Now Brandi hopes to bring awareness to ovarian cancer – which is one of the main reasons she wanted to appear on Basketball Wives.
And though her friend Malaysia Pargo has been fully supportive of her and welcomed her with open arms, she hasn't experienced the same type of treatment from the other women.
"The downside of the show is dealing with these catty women. I didn’t like that because it brought me down occasionally to their level.
"I know on a reality show like you have to have drama, you have to have something to keep it interesting, but this was a struggle to just deal with how to balance it all—try to tell my story and then deal with bitter women. It was a struggle and my life is so much more important to me."
As well as working on the show, Brandi hopes to give her two-year-old son Jason a brother or sister.
That doesn't come without reservations, though.
"I’m very scared about it because it comes with a risk and that’s scary. I have to go through so much IVF, all the needles and the medications I have to take," she explains.
"It’s so overwhelming, so I have to come to terms with that."
Catch Brandi on Basketball Wives LA every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.