I think it’s important to share my story of fear, courage, and persistence in the face of a blood cancer with others in order to inspire them to persevere in their own battles – so here is a little about the journey I started over a year and a half ago.
My name is Brianna, and I am from New Jersey and a recent graduate from the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!!!) and at the beginning of August, I started working as a Campaign Specialist at the Delaware Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Before I get into my own personal story, I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your day to read about my story. I want to tell you about my story and your story, and how those stories connect.
In mid-January of 2017, just 19 months ago, I was diagnosed with stage 2 bulky Hodgkins Lymphoma. I found out I had cancer after returning from a medical relief trip to Ecuador, where I became extremely ill. The day I was diagnosed with cancer changed my life forever. It changed my mother’s life, my brothers life, my friends lives, even lives around me that I never thought I would impact.
In early February I started an ABVD chemotherapy regimen. I did 12 treatments over the course of 6 months, and one month after my last chemo I started a 19 session course of proton radiation at the University of Penn.
I was persistent about staying at school full-time, as I had just started my second semester at UD as a junior. I only ended up dropping one class before the semester started per my oncologists instructions, however, I took every single exam and completed every single assignment. I finished my junior year of college with barely any hair on my head but on the Dean’s list, so I’ll take that as an accomplishment.
Unfortunately, aside from losing hair, I lost a lot of other things. I lost time as a second semester junior, I lost the opportunity to apply for grad school when I wanted to, and I even lost some friends. I have lost so many things these past 19 months. However, I want to tell you about what I have gained, because that’s the most important part of my story.
I have gained the ability to not take any second for granted. I have gained new friendships, a new community of people that I can rely on. I have gained the strength to handle even the hardest of situations. I have gained a new understanding of life.
That’s where LLS comes into my story. Before I was sick, I wanted to be an orthopedic Physicians Assistant and was getting ready to apply for grad school. When I finished my treatment, I realized that my strengths may be suited somewhere else in this world doing something a bit different. So, in the strange way this world works, I landed an internship at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a second semester senior, one year after I had gotten diagnosed, and I’m now working full-time in the fight against cancer.
So, after 12 chemotherapy treatments and 19 proton radiation sessions, I am in remission since September 21st, 2017. Now, I have two birthdays (which I can’t wait to celebrate soon!!), and I have the amazing opportunity to make a difference in the world thanks to people who support the mission of LLS
And that’s where our stories intersect. You may read my story and it may not affect you, and you may go on with your day. But maybe you’ll read my story, and it’ll remind you of a friend, a family member, or even yourself – and it’ll inspire you to do more, just like my experience with blood cancer inspired me and changed my life.
I created this podcast, Trauma But Make It Funny, in honor of all survivors and to share how I used humor to get myself through this, but more importantly how I used humor to help my family and friends deal with my situation. When I was first diagnosed, my mom came up with the idea to start a hashtag that said #BattleForBri. Those three little words stuck with me throughout the entirety of my treatment and reminded me that, yes, it would be the hardest battle of my life, but I would beat it. My hope is that survivors, their families, and their friends will read and share this page and remember that our greatest battles test us in all ways, but we can grow tremendously from them. I also made this page to honor my own network of friends and families who have supported me in more ways than I can count, because if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know if I would have made it.
I’m so excited for what my future holds, and without organizations like LLS, who knows what that future could have been, but it will now be a celebration of life and determination. It’s a time for me to be thankful of the support I have received, and a time to celebrate battles that have been won. And it’s also a time to remember the battles that were not overcome.