Brandi Bryant was taking a lot of walks in November 2017. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, she started feeling short of breath after exercising.
After going to a doctor for a series of X-rays and tests, Brandi was “floored” to learn she had stage three lung cancer.
As a 39-year-old mother, Brandi was devastated.
“It didn’t make any sense to me because I didn’t have any risk factors,” she says. All she could think about were her four children. “At the time,” she says, “my youngest child was only three years old, and I was terrified that he would not remember me.”
Friends in the medical profession provided referrals, including to a highly regarded doctor at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The institute was in her neighborhood, which made it convenient. Even more important to Brandi was Winship’s National Cancer Institute designation.
The prestigious NCI designation means that Winship has demonstrated that its outstanding programs are reducing the cancer burden on the state of Georgia through research conducted in its laboratories, its clinical trial program, and its population-based science.
“I chose Winship,” she says, “because they are an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.” She points out that “there just wasn’t another hospital around that had that designation.” For this reason, Brandi says she knew Winship doctors would be leading research “and have clinical trials available should I need them.” Clinicians at Winship Cancer Institute work to make sure every patient has the option to participate in a clinical trial that’s right for them.
High Praise for Her Care Team
Brandi says she loved her team, including the medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, nurses, techs, and even the receptionist. “It was a good team,” she says. “They made me feel cared for and supported.”
She says her care was “top-notch,” even when the cancer progressed, and she had to be admitted to the hospital. It meant a lot that her doctors came to see her while she was a patient at Emory University Hospital, just checking to make sure she got what she needed.
As a concerned mom, Brandi also appreciated the social workers on the team. At Winship, social workers provide practical assistance, and individual, family and group counseling. They helped her find a program to help support her kids, too.
Five Years On
It’s still hard, says Brandi, five years after her diagnosis. But there is no trace of lung cancer. “I feel great,” she says. “I am doing well.” She is mostly thankful to be here and mostly feeling good.
Brandi also has become a big advocate for lung cancer awareness. “One of the biggest parts of our education,” she says, is pushing the idea, “Anybody with lungs can get lung cancer. It doesn’t matter what your history was, anyone can get lung cancer.”
Brandi knows that firsthand all too well.
In addition to educating others about lung cancer, Brandi also emphasizes: Get to Winship. “You can have a great team here,” she says. “It’s not just your oncology team, but if you have any other issues, it’s nice to have everybody in one system where they’re able to talk to one another and work together.”
“Today, I like to say, I live while the living is good,” says Brandi. “So if I’m feeling good, then I am doing the most. Being a survivor means just getting the most out of life, like sharing love and spreading joy when I can—and accepting the sadness when it’s there, and then pushing through it and doing the next thing.”
One “next thing” Brandi did was a cross-country road trip with her kids in the summer of 2022. “I’m an adventurer,” she says. “I drove my kids across the country by myself this summer. It was a long road trip, but we got it done, and we made memories. And that’s really important to me, being able to make memories. That’s just all I want to keep doing. Surviving and thriving, making memories.”
About Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, a prestigious distinction given to the top 3% of cancer centers nationwide for conducting cancer research and providing training that is transforming cancer care, prevention, detection and survivorship. Winship discovers, develops, delivers and teaches some of the world’s most effective ways to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat each patient’s unique cancer. Cancer care at Winship includes specialists with deep expertise and experience in cancer; multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment planning and care coordination that caters to each patient’s individual needs; therapies supported by the latest advances in cancer research; and comprehensive clinical trials and support services.