Name: Brittany Roark Barfield
Diagnosed At Age: 27
Status: Remission – 6-Year Cancer Survivor
Bio: Brittany Barfield lives in Manning, South Carolina with her husband, Jamie, daughter, Brenly, 8, and one more little bundle on the way. She graduated from Columbia College in 2001 with a BA in Dance. Diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2007, she completed her treatment in June of 2008. She is a co-founder of a young breast cancer support group called The Ta-tinis. They are currently working on a book and hold an annual Fight Like a Girl benefit each year. She is also very active in her church where she is a youth drama leader and an aerobics instructor.
My reaction when I was first diagnosed: I was in pure shock. No words, no emotions, just in a complete stupor. The tears finally came not long after. Then I remember getting into “fight mode.” I was ready for whatever was to come. I was ready to show everyone just how tough I really was.
My little girl had just fought for her life, almost a year prior, with an atypical version of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. She showed true strength and raw courage, and I wanted to show her the same. I wanted to fight for my life, so that I could raise and watch my little girl grow up.
How I’m feeling now: Other than being in my first trimester of pregnancy, nausea/fatigue, I feel great! (I got the all-clear from my oncologist that we could try and get pregnant, and we did with no complications so far. God has truly blessed us!)
My inspirations: I met and had chemo with many cancer patients that inspired me and helped me throughout my journey. Some were terminal and have passed, that was really hard, and some were like me who had a great chance of surviving.
I came to know four young breast cancer survivors, like myself, who I could laugh, cry and just talk to about any and everything. We are now a group of five, and we call ourselves The Ta-tinis. (We would meet at a local restaurant and share stories about our ta-tas over martinis, hence where we came up with our group name.)
We, the Ta-tinis, are so passionate about sharing our stories with other women (young and old) so that they come to know and understand why breast cancer awareness is so important. Cancer does not discriminate and breast cancer is starting to hit a younger population. Our mission is to get the word out so that women are prepared, educated and ready when or if this ugly disease decides to show its ugly face.
My support system: My Mom was and still is my rock! She tells everyone that cancer is the little “c”, the big “C” stands for Christ! She and my Dad raced to the doctor’s office the day I was diagnosed. They lived an hour-and-a-half away and came to meet with me, my husband and the doctor to go over and schedule the next year of my life. She then went home, packed up her clothes, and moved in with me and my family for the next year.
My husband, Jamie, and daughter, Brenly, gave many hugs and kisses and just loved me throughout. My bald head didn’t even scare my 2-year-old, which was such a blessing!
Family, co-workers, neighbors, friends and church family were all very supportive by visiting, calling, bringing meals, cards, gift cards, gifts… you name it! I had an awesome supportive group of people in my corner.
I’m proud of: My journey. I would not wish this on my worst enemy, yet I’m glad I went through it. I am so very blessed because of what I’ve seen and been through. I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone through having cancer, chemo and radiation. I love more, I laugh more, I care more, I pray more, etc.
I’m afraid of: The cancer coming back or someone in my family getting it. Cancer is nasty and like I mentioned before, it does not discriminate, so that scares me tremendously. I was fortunate to find my mass early and we (my doctors and I) took a very aggressive approach because I had such an aggressive type of cancer.
I’ve learned: God has a plan for each one of us. I don’t know exactly what he has in store for me, but I know I wasn’t where I needed to be in my journey with him. I’ve learned to love and respect life more. Tomorrow is not a promise so I like to tell the people I care about just how much I love them as often as I can. I’ve learned that having God in my heart and having a loving family brings me the greatest happiness that I need to go throughout the rest of my life.
My advice to new patients: You are entitled to your grieving time when you are diagnosed. No one knows what you are feeling or going through. Sometimes you need to back away into a corner and cry and that’s OK! Just know that you have to come out and face this ugly demon that has tried to come into your body and take over, and you can’t let it!
Thinking back on my journey…my first 2-3 months…I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Then this girl called me up one day, out of the blue, who was going through the same thing. She was actually a month or two behind me in her diagnosis and wanted to ask me some questions. I remember thinking to myself, how can I help her when I can’t even help myself? She reached out to me and pulled me out of this very dark place, and I am so grateful for that. I thought I was alone but I wasn’t!
There are support groups out there. I recommend going to some and seeing which one you fit in with the most. You may have to make yourself go, but I promise, it is so worth it! They understand what you are going through because they have been there or are going through the same routine as you. I remember it was just so different than talking to my family and friends because they had never been through having cancer, they didn’t know what to say to me. Having a support group helps you to understand more emotionally, physically, financially, etc. Believe it or not, it even gives you a chance to laugh at a few things!
Lastly, I would say, hang in there and Fight Like a Girl! You can do this!!!