Becoming a Breast Cancer Survivor Taught Me I Was Stronger Than I Ever Knew Possible

10/17/17 By Beth Anne

Hello followers! Today, we are sharing this blog post from Brianna Armour, a young breast cancer survivor and inspiring future doctor! Breast cancer can occur at any age, to anyone - Early detection saved Brianna's life and it could save yours, too. Read Brianna's story below, and be sure to shop PINK stethoscopes through Medelita's website here: https://www.medelita.com/pink-breast-cancer-foundation-stethoscopes.html

Becoming a Breast Cancer Survivor Taught Me I Was Stronger Than I Ever Knew Possible

Hello beautiful people of Medelita!! My name is Brianna Armour and I am a future doctor and proud mother of a beautiful daughter. I am also honored and proud to call myself a Medelita H.I.P. Ambassador. It's so rewarding to officially be a part of a company that not only has amazing apparel for all of us in healthcare but also is socially responsible and was founded by a woman in medicine. And not just any woman - but an awesome Physician Assistant with 10+ years of experience in Emergency Medicine. If that is not the definition of #goals, I don’t know what is!

As a breast cancer survivor, my decision to pursue medicine has been closely tied to my experience with the disease and the things it carried. Coming to terms with breast cancer as I worked with medical teams to mitigate its effects was one of the biggest challenges I've faced thus far, but I came out the other side stronger and ready to use my strength to help others. 

So why I am pursuing medicine?

To answer this question, we will need to go back to the end of November 2014. I was showering and noticed a tender area, sensitive to the touch that took me by surprise. I wondered to myself, “how in the world did I bruise my left breast?”. I am not the clumsy type and it was unlike me to just run into things, let alone with my chest. I did a manual breast exam and I could tell that something did not feel right, so I iced the tender spot and made an appointment to visit my Gynecologist.

You know, just to make sure it was nothing serious…

My first appointment did not go well. My doctor seemed unconcerned because of my age, and concluded it was probably just a bruise I randomly acquired. It took a bit of debating back and forth before she would even approve my mammogram. Looking back now, it is incredibly concerning to me how dismissive she was that there could potentially even be an issue just because of my age.

It makes me wonder how many women have missed being diagnosed because they were denied further testing.

I went and had my mammogram done, only to learn what I already knew in my heart...“Abnormal Results”. Next came the biopsies. I needed two before the results would be considered final, and that long-dreaded wait felt like a decade.

The following week - the week of my twenty-sixth birthday - I got the call that I could not fathom ever receiving at that age (or any age to be truthful). Both biopsies confirmed my worst nightmare. The cells were cancerous; I had breast cancer.

I remember being told the news in person. It felt like everything was going in slow motion. I heard the words my doctor was saying, but my mind was not computing that it was my body she was talking about.

I was a breast cancer patient.

How could this be? I had done everything right! I’ve never smoked a day in my life or done drugs. I rarely if ever drink alcohol. I’m physically active and eat relatively healthy. How did I, a 26-year-old new mother get breast cancer?

Turns out I was BRCA 1 gene positive. There was really no rhyme or reason. It was just kind of inevitable.

It took a while to come to terms with my new diagnosis. Those next few months went by like a blur in the night, as I was propelled into the overwhelming black hole of insurance paperwork, chemotherapy appointments, confusing medical terminology, innumerable medications, invasive procedures, nausea, weight fluctuations and countless tears.

But eventually, at the end of 2015 the sun came back into my life again. I was finally considered to be in remission of cancer, with a series of appointments to follow and medication for the next three years.

I was a survivor. Was I thankful? Yes, but gratitude was just one facet of the complex emotional state I found myself in upon learning I was cancer-free. Beating the cancer had become such a focal point in my life, now that it was gone what would I do with my second chance at life? How would I make my time count? Where would I go from here?

I was so burned out in the business world, and the thought of pursuing another business degree with no real direction made me sick to my stomach. I used this second chance at life to make a life changing decision, and switched over to the pre-med track to use the credits I’d already earned in school.

Back when I was eighteen I tucked away my original dreams of becoming a doctor neatly into the back of my mind. I needed to focus on working immediately, but things were different now. It was time for me to conclude my time on the patient side of the equation and begin the process of becoming a provider.

There is so much to be afraid of during the med school process: the competitiveness, the long hours spent studying, the costs and the years of income I will have to give up for 4 plus long years. Medicine is no joke, and I understand that there is no room for error. Because not only does it affect me, but my daughter’s life will inevitably be shaped by the failure or success of my journey in medicine.

Beating cancer had taught me I was stronger than I ever could have thought possible. Yes, the prospect of starting medical school given my circumstances is scary. Terrifying, even.  

But if I want to inspire my daughter to spread her wings and pursue what makes her heart sing, I must stop being too scared of the possibility of failure to flutter my own wings.

In the relatively short time since making the decision to pursue medical school, I have graduated with another degree and with honors, began accumulating my HCE (Healthcare Experience) and PCE (Patient Care Experience) hours, completed substantial hours of volunteer work, have been awarded multiple scholarships, underwent training to become a certified EMT, landed an amazing research opportunity, started networking with amazing individuals and businesses in healthcare and so much more!

So it just goes to show you that where there’s a will there is a way. Strong women have been breaking down the walls of doubt and uncertainty since the beginning of time, and as a caregiver I hope to provide a compassionate and encouraging voice to my patients just as the medical team who treated my cancer provided to me. As someone who was on the patient bed not too long ago, I can relate. I can empathize. My compassion is genuine and stems from a place of understanding.

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn a little bit about me, I’ve enjoyed sharing a little insight into my life with you all and I am so excited for this journey and for having Medelita so graciously wanting to be a part of my journey, I look forward to where this road called life takes me. And I hope no matter what stage you are in on your own personal journeys, you can use my story as a reminder to stay positive, never doubt yourself and believe - even when the cards are stacked against you - that you will find a way to bring those cards down to the ground!

—Brianna