Briana R.

Breast Cancer - Stage IIB


The hospital at CTCA Tulsa has a childcare center, which was such a blessing for me and my daughter, Abbi. When I had to be in treatment, she was playing, coloring and laughing with the staff. They went above and beyond to provide care for my daughter. I could focus on my treatment because I knew she was in good hands.

They say nothing prepares you for cancer. Except in my case, maybe I was, but that doesn’t make it any less of a shock. When I got my cancer diagnosis, it was just a few years after my mom’s.

May 2015 was when I found out that my mom, Jean, had breast cancer. I was six months pregnant with my first and only child. The diagnosis was devastating because my mom and I are so close. I promised to help her and be there for her, and I was. My mom went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) for treatment. I accompanied my mother to many appointments. As a nurse, I know and live patient care. From the beginning of her journey to the end, when scans showed she had no more signs of cancer, I saw that CTCA® is different. It was worth the distance from our homes in Houston, Texas, to travel to the hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Going to the hospital felt like we were surrounded by family. At CTCA, the doctors, nurses, clinicians and hospital employees all work relentlessly to make a difference. My mom had a care team, and together, we all fought with her. In my mom’s time of need, I wanted her to receive personal care tailored to her, and that’s what she got: the Mother Standard® of care.

We celebrated my mom’s recovery from cancer, and our lives began to return to normal. Then, when my daughter was 18 months old, I woke up to a pain in my breast. A self-exam didn’t tell me much, but my left breast had always bothered me when I was breast-feeding, so I was concerned. I called my OB/GYN, and I went in to see him. While I was in the office, he felt two lumps. He told me to get scans right away. I called a local breast center, but they couldn’t get me in for over eight weeks. I knew that wasn’t soon enough.

Powerful support

I called CTCA, and I had an appointment scheduled right away. In less than 24 hours from stepping through the hospital doors, I completed all my scans and tests, including a biopsy. I received my test results the next day, and I found out it was cancer. I was only 32 years old, and I had stage IIB breast cancer.

My initial evaluation only lasted a few days, but by the end, I was staged and had a treatment plan. It was all taken care of at one time and in one place. I already knew the doctors from being there with my mom. I was anxious, but I was comfortable. I knew that they would take care of me, physically and emotionally. I knew I would travel the distance from Houston to Tulsa to get the right care for me.

I started chemotherapy in June 2017 at CTCA. My doctors worked with me to increase my time at home and reduce my time at the hospital as much as possible. I had to work through treatment because I was the primary breadwinner and our health insurance was provided by my employer. I also had a young daughter who I needed to continue to care for. So, my team worked with me to help make that happen.

It wasn’t always easy. I got sick, dehydrated and weak. However, when I was away, my doctors and nurses were only a phone call away. I was able to get through the chemotherapy because CTCA has a whole-person approach to care, which includes helping to manage the side effects of treatment. I took advantage of so many of the supportive care therapies available to help me stay strong and complete treatment.

I worked until January 2018, when I had surgery, a bilateral radical mastectomy with lymph node removal. I took time off from work to recover from surgery and start radiation therapy. My family, friends and work were so supportive of me. They helped raise funds for me, so that I wasn’t stressed about money.

Fighting for my future

The next step in my treatment journey was radiation therapy. Because I underwent treatment almost every day, I had to be at the hospital for eight weeks. I packed up my car with my mom and daughter, and we drove from Houston to Tulsa.

The day my radiation therapy treatment started was the day my marriage ended. One of the nurses on my care team could sense that I was emotionally in turmoil, and she hugged me. Then, she took time to talk to me and comfort me. She eased my fears about starting a new treatment and surrounded me with love when I needed it most. I will never forget that first day. I had my mom and my daughter by my side, and that is when I started a new chapter in my life.

The hospital at CTCA Tulsa has a childcare center, which was such a blessing for me and my daughter, Abbi. When I had to be in treatment, she was playing, coloring and laughing with the staff. They went above and beyond to provide care for my daughter. I could focus on my treatment because I knew she was in good hands.

Throughout treatment, radiation oncologists monitored how the cancer was responding to the radiation therapy and modified it when necessary. In June 2018, scans showed I had no more signs of cancer.

Possibilities, opportunities and hope

I have tissue expanders that stretch the skin to make room for implants. Right now, I am not fully reconstructed. I am waiting for the best time to take off work for surgery and recovery. My doctor has presented me with several options, and CTCA will be ready when I am.

CTCA has been there for me through my entire journey and my road to recovery. A lot has changed in my life, but for the better. I moved to my family ranch, and my daughter and I live next door to my mother. We are very close in distance and in heart. My mom helps us so much.

I went back to work, and I was promoted to charge nurse. I am writing a book about my journey. I am in a new relationship. I am getting my master’s degree in science and nursing education. My plan is to get my Doctor of Nurse Practitioner degree. I am hoping for a career transition to working and training students to become nurses because I love to teach. In 2019, my daughter turned 4, and I love watching her dance, participate in activities and thriving.

I have learned so much through my experience. I am getting stronger every day, which I believe is a direct result of the care I received at CTCA. I focus more on being kind, compassionate and grateful. I tell others to count the beautiful blessings in their lives and be present in the small and big moments. There is a world of opportunities still out there for me, and I am thankful to be here.

Care team