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A Success Story - Brittany Stene

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Brittany Stene

Brittany is attending Collin County Community College, Preston Ridge Campus, in Frisco, Texas, majoring in Nursing Studies.  Brittany's cancer experience has given her a dream of becoming an Oncology Nurse, so she help comfort other children who have to go through their own cancer journeys.  She has survived Osteosarcoma (bone cancer).  In her own words:

“In April of 2008, I was a hard-working 15 year old, enjoying every second of my usual busy and fast-paced schedule.  I was doing well in school, choreographing a musical, and busy with choir rehearsals and dance classes - as always.  Everything seemed perfect, and it was all going as planned.  The only thing that was holding me back, and refusing to let go, was in pain in my right knee. 

What if it was serious? What if I needed surgery? 

I knew either way, the doctor would tell me to stop dancing for awhile to give my leg a rest, but I didn't want to do that.  I was too busy, had too many things to do, and too many people were depending on me.  I continued to ignore it, hoping at the worst it was only a small sprain and would heal on its own. 

One day at school, it finally hit me.  As I sat in English class, trying to concentrate on what the teacher was saying, I found it nearly impossible to block out the pain I was feeling in my leg.  It had kept me up the entire night before, and even now just sitting still, it was throbbing worse than ever.  I called my mom to make an appointment for me at the doctor right after school.  The doctor took an x-ray, and returned with a recommendation that we immediately go to the nearest hospital for an MRI on my leg.  It was in that moment that I realized it was much more than a fracture. 

After multiple tests and bone scans, the results I received were something I would have never imagined: I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, bone cancer.  My world was suddenly and totally flipped upside down.  I was removed from the one thing I loved most, the stage.  Since I had one of the worst types of cancer, I immediately began aggressive chemotherapy treatments, which made me nauseous and sick all of the time.  My immune system weakened little by little, until it barely existed at all.  I was extremely vulnerable to infection, and germ exposure became a huge factor, so I could no longer attend school with my friends.  Everything was changing so fast.  I felt lonely, helpless and angry, like so many others in my situation have felt. 

How could this happen to me?  I wanted to believe it wasn't real; that it was all just a nightmare and I was going to wake up.  But it was real, and I knew that I couldn't get through it by myself.  The support of my friends and family was great, but it just wasn't enough.  I knew the only one that I could truly depend on was God.  It was then that I made the choice to place my trust in Him fully to carry me through this time in my life.  As it says in Jeremiah 17:7, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him."  I was completely confident that the Lord would protect me and carry me through this terrible crisis. 

In July of 2008, I had my first surgery to remove the tumor.  It was six hours long, and in the end, I received an entirely rebuilt leg - consisting of a brand new bone, tendons and ligaments - and a metal knee as well.  When I woke up from the anesthesia, I immediately started crying.  I thought the whole point of this surgery was to make my leg feel better, not worse!  The surgeon had told me I would be in pain, but nothing could have prepared me for this.  I was even more shocked when the next morning my nurse barged into my room and told me it was time to walk.  I continued to do this every day, barely managing to make it a few steps at a time without bursting into tears.  I couldn't help but wonder if I would ever be able to walk normally again, especially after I learned that I would soon need a second surgery because my leg refused to bend.  Even though I was hurt and upset, I still pushed through the physical therapy, and continued to remind myself that God would help me overcome this.  Every morning when my nurse came into the room and told me it was time to walk, I repeated Philippians 4:13 in my mind, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 

Then came the news that the port used to give my chemotherapy had caused a massive blood clot in the Superior Vena Cava of my heart (large short vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the upper half of the body to the heart's right atrium).  The only option was to remove the port and stop all further chemotherapy treatments, which left the door open for the cancer to return.  The clot, according to the doctors, was permanent and I was forced to take blood thinner pills to prevent it from getting any larger or fragmenting into my lungs. 

With much prayer and patience ... a CT Scan several months later revealed something I had never expected.  The blood clot was gone.  It had completely disappeared.  It truly was a miracle!  Today, I am in remission, totally cancer free! 

Obviously, I wish I had never gotten cancer, but in the end, I have accepted it and a better person I have become because of it.  I truly believe that by choosing to embrace God during this difficult time in my life, and fully understanding that He would carry me through, our relationship has grown so much deeper and stronger.  I am so thankful to be alive today, walking and living for Christ.  We all have those moments where we feel alone, like there is only one set of footprints in the sand.  However, we must remember that it is God who carries us over those mountains.  I think everything happens for a reason, and that God saved me from this illness because I believed with all of my heart that He would carry me.  He knew that with my story, I could inspire others to have hope.  As it says in 2 Timothy 4:17, "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the nations could hear it; I was delivered from the lion's mouth."

My cancer has changed me in so many ways.  Not only do I have a brand new leg, but I have also gained an entirely new perspective on life.  I have learned not to take anything for granted, and to fully appreciate each new day that God gives me.  And now, my dream is to become an Oncology Nurse, so I can help other children through this as well.  I can relate to them because I know how they feel.  I understand their fears, their questions, and their doubts.  I want to give back in this way.    

It is very comforting to know that Cancer Survivors' Fund will be encouraging and helping me realize my dream of becoming a great Oncology Nurse.  Thank you so much!”

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