When Bryanna’s hair started falling out, she took control of the situation. She shaved it into a Mohawk and had a party where everyone spray-painted their hair purple.
Though Bryanna was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma at just 9 years old, the Locust resident was already familiar with cancer and its effects.
Bryanna was about 6 when her mother, Wendy, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. At the start of Wendy’s treatment, she shaved her own hair into a Mohawk and had a party where everyone spray-painted their hair pink.
Wendy’s treatment was successful, but the experience made a lasting impression on Bryanna. She had seen first-hand the impact cancer can have, so one night in October 2014 when she noticed an unusual lump, she knew something was wrong.
“I was at Nana’s house and I was lying in bed. I felt this knot, and I automatically freaked out,” Bryanna said. “Because my mom had cancer, I knew what a lymph node was.”
A biopsy confirmed her fears and kicked off a treatment regimen of chemotherapy to fight the disease. Though the chemo was tough on her body, Bryanna was tougher. She lost her hair, but never her smile.
Bryanna spent months in and out of Atrium Health's Levine Children’s – though she was mostly in. Her family was with her every step of the way. Her brother, Nick, would often have his friends stay over so they could all keep Bryanna company while she was stuck in the hospital or at home.
We were very grateful to have [blood] when we needed it," Wendy said.
Five times throughout Bryanna’s treatment, doctors ordered blood transfusions to help replenish her blood supply and fight the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
“We were very grateful to have it when we needed it,” Wendy wrote on the Team Bryanna Facebook page.
Because Bryanna’s family understood the importance of blood for patients like her, they teamed up with her friends in the West Stanly High School cheerleading squad to host a blood drive with CBCC in her honor. They wanted to give back to the community that had ensured an adequate supply of blood was available when she needed it. The blood drive collected enough units to help up to 114 local patients.
Bryanna said it felt good to know that so many people came out to give because of her. But that wasn’t the first time her community rallied to support her.
A charity motorcycle ride raised money for the family and awareness of her disease, and the West Stanly cheerleaders also held a fundraiser for her family. Thousands of people from across the country continue to follow her story on the Facebook page her mother uses to share their journey. Whether they know Bryanna personally or not, her fans leave messages of hope and support for the sweet young lady with the big smile and even bigger heart.
Though they have had some scares along the way, Bryanna’s chemotherapy treatment was successful and she has been cancer free for three years. Now 13 years old, she hopes to one day follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse.
“Giving others hope...
Thanks to local blood donors.”
“Her life was saved ...
And now she's saving others”
“Jamal says his life is nothing short of a miracle...
Thanks to local blood donors.”