This is what my battle with breast cancer taught me about my body and my life

To: Women

From: Brianna Camille (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear Women, 

These last three years, I experienced a lot of tough moments. There are still days that I struggle.  But I refuse to let my experience go to waste. 

In December of 2017, I was only 31 years old. That is when I started to feel excruciating pain in my right breast. My friends told me it was nothing, but it didn’t feel right to me. So, I made an appointment to see a doctor right away. My doctor suggested I get a mammogram. When I called to schedule an appointment, they were two weeks out. 

I thought to myself, “Oh great, by the time I am there, the problem will resolve itself.”

Brianna was diagnosed with Stage 1 grade 2 breast cancer. Picture Courtesy: Lindsey Kelly

But I followed through anyway and my mammogram revealed that I had cancer.  With no family history and otherwise a perfectly clean bill of health, I was floored. I couldn’t believe it.

My tumor was six centimeters, as I was considered Stage 1, grade 2. Thankfully, we caught it just in time and I didn’t need chemo. 

Three weeks after my diagnosis, I had what would be my first of four surgeries in 2018 alone. They removed my entire breast. 

As far as reconstruction, I thought, “I’ll get a nice new boob and it will be great.”

That was not the case. I had to go back to the plastic surgeon once a week for eight weeks to get my  expander filled. I’d get a shot of saline each week to slowly stretch my skin back out. Just having to go to the doctor that much, takes a toll. Once I had the surgery, I lost two cup sizes and then I needed surgery again because the FDA recalled my implant. 

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While I like the new implant more, my body doesn’t look like it once did and it probably never will. That’s tough to accept.

My body doesn’t look like it once did and it probably never will. That’s tough to accept. 

However, as difficult as it’s been battling and beating Breast cancer, these last three years taught me valuable lessons about my life and body.

When I was first diagnosed and still in the hospital, a girl I thought was my friend sent me a picture of her breastfeeding her son. It was completely insensitive and tone-deaf. I learned life is too short to keep people around who could be so hurtful during a vulnerable time in your life. 

Brianna tried riding an ATV for the first time after battling cancer.

On the flip side, I had people come to my house and clean or leave three weeks worth of food in my freezer – not because I asked them to do it but simply because they cared. They helped me when I couldn’t offer anything in return. I now recognize how important it is to spend time with the people who truly matter. 

Now, instead of telling people, “We should get together sometime,” I pick dates and make sure I don’t put off meeting up with friends and family. 

Before cancer, there were activities that I was too scared to try. But cancer taught me that being brave isn’t the absence of fear. It’s feeling fear but moving forward anyway.  So, for the first time, I went on an ATV with my boyfriend and loved it. We went riding on the Oregon Coast. It was a thrilling moment. It felt as though I didn’t just conquer cancer, but now I am conquering life, as I no longer shy away from new adventures. 

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Also, cancer reminded me that no matter how bad your day is going, there is always a reason to be grateful. And looking back, I am proud to say I made it through 100% of my worst days.

As for my body, I learned and continue to learn that my body is so much stronger than I had ever imagined. I realized the importance of advocating for myself and I also learned that I know my body pretty well. I do know when something is wrong and I’m not crazy.

You must check your breasts regularly. So if there is an abnormality, you’ll know. Get a physical, so you always have a baseline as far as your health. And when it’s time, get a mammogram, get a mammogram, get a mammogram.

There is so much life left for me to live, as there is for you. My journey as a Breast cancer survivor likely will never completely end, as the scars will remain and the fear of relapse will persist.

Even so, it is you who can make sure my experience with breast cancer doesn’t go to waste by not only reading my story but by listening to my message.

Be adventurous and thoughtful when living your life, but first, be proactive and diligent in taking care of your body.

With love,

Brianna Camille
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