2016: Briana Johnson

Briana Johnson is a 34 year old mother, wife, daughter and student and she has been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Briana was originally diagnosed on March 15, 2016, just 4 months after giving birth to her second son in November of 2015. After weaning her baby boy off breastfeeding Briana went back to graduate school at Mercer University to become a Physician Assistant. That is when Briana started to notice hard little lumps in the side of her breast, and they started to grow rapidly and quickly grew into a wedge, all within 3 weeks. Assuming that it was just a clogged milk duct, which is a normal occurrence after weaning. Briana was healthy and at that time was only 33 years old, so breast cancer never crossed her mind.

During a break at graduate school Briana went to see her OBGYN and they immediately sent her to get a mammogram. The results were shocking, within 7 weeks the original lump had taken over half her breast, growing to 7 cm. This is when things started to get serious and begin to sink in for Briana that she might have breast cancer. Next was a referral to a breast surgeon for examination. After doing the test and coming to a diagnosis the surgeon called Briana’s husband, Chris, and gave him the news that her biopsy came back positive for breast cancer. Briana was in class at the time so Chris met Briana at school after class to give her the news. Showing up with a big trophy in his hand Briana knew the verdict before Chris ever opened his mouth. Chris was very supportive and uplifting, telling Briana she could have the trophy after finishing all of her treatments. He told her “We are the Johnsons and we can beat anything!” Briana and Chris were always a strong team, getting through all their trials and tribulations that couple goes through, this was no different, they are both determined to get through this together.

Receiving that news was originally devastating for Briana, she felt as though she was delivered a death sentence, and truly felt she was going to die. She can’t even think back on that moment without breaking down in tears still to this day. But her husband, her two young boys, and the rest of her family helped keep her strong and stay focused on beating this terrible disease. The treatments unfortunately caused Briana to have to drop out of school, which hurt because the main reason she moved to Atlanta was to pursue her dream of becoming a Physician Assistant.

Chemo has not been easy on Briana, she suffered from every imaginable side effect of chemo, even in the face of losing her hair Briana took it in stride, deciding to cut all of her hair off before the chemo could take it from her, showing her sons that she was strong and fighting to be with them each and every day. Chris showed how dedicated he was to his wife by cutting his hair as well. Chemo has taken a lot of time away from her children and family, keeping her bedridden for weeks at a time, and affecting her ability to walk at times. Suffering from neuropathy Briana sometimes needs to be escorted to the bathroom and shower. Recalling her last chemo treatment was an eye opening experience for Briana, her dad took her to this treatment, and wanting to be strong she convinced herself she could walk into the oncologist’s office. She fought and walked as far as she could, but then she felt her legs giving out, her father tried to hold her up, but she eventually fell to the floor, she had no strength left. She had to be wheel chaired into the office. She couldn’t walk and was finding it impossible to catch her breath. She was taken to the chemo room and had to be carried to the treatment. The nurse made a comment at how light she was and at that moment she truly realized what she had lost. Her once strong and healthy body had been lost, along with her ability to walk, to eat, to be free of pain, to play with her children, to think clearly and mostly the freedom to care for herself. But through all of this Briana and her family continue to fight, she is truly a role model and an inspiration to us all. No matter what, even in the hardest battle of your life, you never give up, you stay positive and do whatever you have to do to be with the ones you love, even if that means listening to all the Harry Potter Books on tape while recovering from chemo treatments, something Briana doesn’t like to admit.

We are happy to introduce Briana Johnson as our 2016 Nancy Falco Fund Recipient! Come join us September 17th 2016 at Blue Mark Studios to help celebrate this wonderful young woman and raise as much money as possible to help her and her family get through this tough time. Every penny counts, so even if you can’t make it to The Dance you can donate on our website, we look forward to seeing you all there, let’s make this the party of the year!