Last Weekend…

What did you do last weekend? Maybe you took a long weekend to get away; perhaps you went to your child’s soccer game or aided in a scout camping trip.

Britni Prybol spent the 72 hours from last Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon worried that the spot on her scan would mean she has metastatic cancer.

Worried that her son, Sebastian, would grow up without his mom.

Thankfully, tests came back cancer free – for now.

It is the “for now” part that Britni and every survivor are clear about. Cancer showed up once, in Britni’s case, twice, and the harshest of realities is it could come back again, at any time. It is a scary, sobering, heavy thought. It is the thought nobody wants to talk about, but too many women are carrying the weight of, day in and day out.

Britni has already preserved beyond incredible odds. At age 30, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after a colonoscopy revealed a very rare neuroendocrine tumor. Several weeks later, Britni felt a heaviness. It may not have even been physical, but it was a feeling that could not be ignored—and thankfully, she did not. Her oncologist dismissed the need for the scan, but Britni persisted.

Remembering genetic testing she had at the advice of the obstetrician that delivered her son, following the death of her grandmother (at age 89 from cancer), she recalled that she had tested positive for two mutations – results that would justify additional testing. She called her obstetrician and had a mammogram ordered.

The next day, Britni went to get her mammogram, totally at peace. The following morning, she received a call from the radiologist, requesting that she return for diagnostic images. An hour later, she was back at the doctor’s office, looking at her latest scans, and she knew something was wrong. She asked the radiologist if she “was going to die?” – the radiologist offered grim encouragement that still reverberates in Britni’s mind –“not today” and “if that is not cancer, I don’t know what is.”

Britni was diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS, breast cancer contained to the milk ducts, on November 9. She opted for a double mastectomy. The chance that a tiny dot could have been missed in the other breast was not a chance she, or her family, were willing to take.

A double mastectomy was set for the day after Christmas.

Several weeks after the surgery, the surgeon called to say they had found three tumors that had not shown up on the scans – the tumors were hormone positive and very aggressive. It was a sucker punch after a long fight.

In the weeks that followed, Britni advocated for herself to have not one, but two types of tests performed to determine the potential effectiveness of chemotherapy. Ultimately, she felt at peace with the decision not to undergo chemotherapy.

Britni is a mother, a daughter, a wife. She is also a survivor. A survivor not just of cancer, but of two types of cancer. She is a survivor of moments. A survivor of long days, long nights, and even longer weekends where she tries not to show her young son how scary life can be.

The importance of cancer research and organizations like the Kay Yow Cancer Fund is in giving hope that we will put an end to thoughts like “what if my cancer comes back?” The victory is knowing once we defeat cancer, it will never return – that time is coming, and for Britni and millions of others, it cannot come too soon.

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