For many typical 21-year-olds, the biggest everyday concerns are making it to class, where to eat, and what to do on the weekend.
But Brittni Doty wasn’t a typical 21-year-old. At the young age of 21, she was thinking about breast cancer.
Back in November 2007, Brittni, a college student at Long Beach State, was stressing about upcoming finals. In the middle of all that, she felt a lump in her breast. She rightly headed to the campus clinic, but the school doctor dismissed her concerns, saying she was too young for cancer.
Not quite satisfied with the doctor’s response, Brittni made an appointment at MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Medical Center. She ended up having a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy all in the same day. Then she had to wait.
“In my mind, I thought I was fine,” said Brittni.
The call came while she was at school, during finals. Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.
“I was scared,” she said. “How could this be happening? But after that, my only thoughts were that I didn’t have a choice. I had to move forward.”
Two weeks after her diagnosis, Brittni’s boyfriend, Adam, proposed. They would get through this together.
Her oncologists recommended a lumpectomy. Brittni knew, however, at her age, with so much of life ahead, she wanted a double mastectomy. It was a drastic decision, but she believed with certainty it was the best choice for her.
Her treatments started with 16 weeks of grueling chemotherapy; she planned her wedding in between treatments. In April 2008, Brittni and Adam were married in a beautiful ceremony.
Just one month later, she would head in for major surgery: a double mastectomy, plus reconstructive surgery, all in one very long procedure.
“Waking up from surgery, I just started crying,” she said. “So much had changed in me, physically but also emotionally. I was a different person. But I had my family there to support me.”
The staff at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center also provided tremendous support.
“The doctors, nurses and staff, they treated me like I was their own child,” Brittni said. “I felt safe, cared for, and loved.”
With the whole treatment plan and recovery behind her, Brittni was able to get back to her life, school, marriage, traveling. When she celebrated her five-year anniversary of being cancer free, she wanted to have a purpose behind her celebration.
“I felt inspired to give to the people who helped me,” she said. Brittni organized her own fundraiser at a home, with friends and family, bringing in almost $2,500 that she generously donated to the Breast Center through Saddleback Memorial Foundation.
Then in 2017, 10 years since her diagnosis, she decided to give back once again. With the help of friends and family, she organized an even bigger fundraiser with about 80 guests. This time, she raised over $7,000.
“Everyone pitched in and helped, which made it special,” Brittni said. “Of the funds we raised, I was able to give 99.9% to the Foundation. I was really proud.”
Brittni has been leading a busy life since her cancer ordeal. She and Adam have enjoyed trips to Europe and Tahiti. In summer 2017, she finished her master’s degree in kinesiology, and she teaches at Orange Coast and Santiago Canyon colleges. They have a lot to look forward to.
“We’re really starting our lives now,” she said. “We both finished school, and now we are thinking about starting a family. That’s what I’m excited for.”
We're so excited for you, too, Brittni.