Inside the house were several family members, all standing in silence with worried looks on their faces.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
And there it was.
A few days earlier, she’d visited Akron Children’s ER after a golf ball-sized mass of tissue suddenly and unexpectedly expelled from her body. Initially suspected as endometriosis-like, doctors sent the tissue to pathology for further testing.
Breanna’s parents fielded a call with the diagnosis while she was at school: rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), stage 1.
RMS is a soft-tissue tumor that’s much more commonly found in children than in adults. It can present in the head and neck, arms and legs, chest and abdomen, or like with Breanna, urinary and reproductive organs.
Up to that point, the extremely active 17 year old showed no signs anything was off other than perhaps some fatigue, which she attributed to her busy schedule.
“I had no idea, no symptoms,” Breanna said. “I went to school, worked full time and was on a competitive dance team. I thought being tired was because of how busy I was.”
Doctors prescribed an intense 46-week rotation of 3 different chemotherapies, telling Breanna’s family that she was fortunate to act quickly after first discovering it.
“They said if the tumor hadn’t fallen out when it did, it could have been too late to treat it,” Breanna said. “They gave me the strongest form of chemo because they said if it came back it could be 10 times worse.”
She set aside her schoolwork and dance team temporarily as her cancer battle became priority number-one.
“Chemo is more than hair and weight loss,” Breanna said. “I didn’t expect it to be that bad, but for a long time I couldn’t walk, couldn’t write anything down. It was just so tough to use any of my muscles. But even though it was such an awful time, the doctors and nurses make it so normal you don’t realize how sick you are. They continually lift your spirits.”
Dr. Megan Sampson and oncologist Stephanie Savelli were Breanna’s primary physicians.
“Bree was an inspiration due to her continual positive attitude during her therapy and the grace in which she handled chemotherapy,” Dr. Sampson said. “No matter how ill she felt or the side effects she experienced, she always had a smile on her face that could light up the room.”
Nearly 2 years after being diagnosed, Breanna’s recovery and story of perseverance has taken her to Kent State University, where the sophomore hopes to one day make an impact on children the way Akron Children’s staff made with her.
“Before chemo, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “But now I want to be a child life specialist for cancer patients, and give kids the same joy that was given to me when I was in the hospital.”
Hear more about Breanna’s story during the 8th annual Miracles & Promises Radiothon, broadcast live from Akron Children’s Beeghly campus on Mix 98.9 or 570 WKBN Sept. 21 – 23. Visit www.miraclesandpromises.org to support the radiothon.