The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

Bri’s Journey

Left-+Brianne+Dollar%0ARight-+Blake+Williams
Carly Kennedy
Left- Brianne Dollar Right- Blake Williams

Growing up, it seemed like there was always something wrong. Ranging from muscle misfires to double vision, there seemed to be one health issue after the other. This time, strep throat had come around once again and didn’t seem to want to go away after a few weeks. 

 

It’s senior year of high school, 2017, and Brianne Dollar feels like she’s not feeling well after a long period of time. She pushes through because she is an AP student who doesn’t like missing out and stays on top of her grades. 

 

Hurricane season comes around, and she is home preparing for the storm, when she falls and bruises her wrist. This didn’t help anything, as the bruises seemed to want to stick around longer than usual. 

 

She was used to having health issues, so she tries to power through her sickness thinking it will pass over soon. Her tiredness is getting worse, and it is harder for her to move from point A to point B. 

 

She decides to go on a trip to Georgia Southern, although she couldn’t participate in most of the activities. She wasn’t even given a wheelchair, and was told she wasn’t allowed to use the golf cart to view campus. 

 

Halloween approaches, and Bri wants to participate in her SGA (Student Government Association) trick or treating event. She was in a lot of pain at the time, but she was determined to push through. 

 

Now starting to miss whole weeks of school at the time, a teacher pulled Bri to the side and suggested she be checked out. The teacher’s husband had been diagnosed with AML (Acute myeloid leukemia), and Bri was showing symptoms. 

 

Bri then convinced her dad to take off work one day to take her to get seen. After just one look, the doctor says that Bri is anemic. This is where your blood produces a lower amount of healthy red blood cells and it causes you to be very tired, have shortness in breath, among other symptoms. She is told to get to the emergency room as soon as possible. 

 

At the hospital, she is told a normal Hematocrit (percent of red blood cells in your blood), is 20. Her’s was a whopping three, and doctors were shocked that she was even conscious. This was even after some retest to be sure.  

 

Now, a week before Thanksgiving, Nov. 16, 2017, Bri is diagnosed with Leukemia.  

 

Treatment was not easy. Seven to 10 days of different rounds of chemotherapy. 36 days in the hospital, luckily got to come home for Christmas. 

 

Upon returning, Bri was put in a smaller room due to a patient already being put in what she calls the “Big room”. She was battling through severe mucositis at the time, which was a side effect of the chemotherapy that put sores on her mouth, lips and throat. She had to be fed through a pump. 

 

On her birthday, the boy that was staying in “The big room” got to go home. The nurses then decorated the room for her birthday. 

 

Months went by, hospital stays from 23 days at the time to 36 days at the time. 

 

May 2018

Bri is set to graduate with her class and attend prom. Everything is looking up. 

 

She catches this superbug that messes her stomach up pretty bad. Doesn’t affect her too bad until her pressure bottoms out. Quicker than the snap of a finger, she went into septic shock. The medication she needed was just released by the FDA not long before. 

 

She unfortunately missed her high school prom, but was given something even better. The nurses at the hospital gave Bri her very own prom! She was crowned prom queen and her doctor (who was dressed in an elephant onesie) was crowned prom king. The nurses even dressed in prom dresses. 

 

Bri did get to walk with her senior year class, but was caught by some bad news a week before graduation. She had been informed that she hadn’t relapsed, but they needed to monitor her blood cells. This needed to be looked over because she had caught minor residual disease. 

 

Her doctor had told her that she had a 70% chance of not relapsing. The only thing that Bri could think about was the 30 % chance that she could. 

 

Follow up tests occur, they stop taking blood tests which confuses Bri. Her dad then calls and starts asking why. They are then told to schedule an appointment, and told everything is fine. She knew everything was not fine because she was already having more issues. She had a feeling that she had relapsed but no one would say it. 

 

While making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Bri notices that the doctor was on the phone with her dad. She knew right then what the phone call was about. She could hear it in her dad’s voice.

 

Summer of 2018 

 

Bri attended Camp Sunshine in Rockledge, where she met one of her bestfriends, Emma. She had also just met another friend through her drama teacher Ms. Lacy. Her name was Monica. She used to facetime Bri and talk to her about Leukemia, because she had battled it three times prior. 

 

Being a “terrible” friend, Bri told her friend Emma over text that she had relapsed. What she did not know was that Emma was taking a chemistry text at that moment. The first thing Emma saw after class was that text, and at the time those girls knew before her own mother knew. 

 

The next phase was then set. Bri was then to go to Atlanta, get another round of chemo and have a transplant done. The family had to come up with a compromise because Bri’s grandfather lived with them at the time because he needed intensive care. It was decided that he would stay with her aunt and uncle while they went to Atlanta for treatment. 

 

She went through treatment, still not feeling 100%. She was still vomiting and having fevers. Whenever she is sent home, she can tell something isn’t right. Her grandfather had passed away on the day he was supposed to move in with her aunt and uncle. Three days prior to that, one of her good friends Caleb had also passed away. While doing this round of chemotherapy, Bri missed her grandpa’s funeral. With everything going wrong, Bri does notice it is Super bowl Sunday. 

 

Pre-transplant, Bri and her friends Monica and Emma decide that they are going to rent out a motel room in Atlanta and spend the weekend together. They did a lot of resting, but did manage to visit the World of Coke and other activities. This was the first time Monica and Bri had met in person. 

 

After being told that she could have the transplant done, Bri banned her doctor from saying something couldn’t happen, because of her experiences previously. 

 

Before her next transplant, the originally selected donor had dropped out. So they had to find a second donor, and a back up plan. The second donor wasn’t able to give blood cells because he was a 25 year old male who was really small. They figured he wouldn’t be able to handle it. The backup donor was the charm, but there was a catch. 

 

The doctors had to call Bri and her family in to tell them the risk of using the back up donor, due to his homosexuality. She believes it was because her donor was gay, that there was a chance of HIV. 

 

Looking back on this time, Bri talked about her standup routine at Camp, where she talked about her donor being gay, and her being lesbian, that with both cells combining she must be bisexual. 

 

She was admitted during her sister’s birthday, but everything went to plan. She had four days of chemotherapy, three days rest, and one day for the blood cell transplant. Her next stop was the Ronald McDonald house. This was until her donor’s blood cells started attacking hers, causing her to gain 20 pounds overnight. This caused her to go unconscious for a week and a half. At this point she had turned yellow.

 

Monica had come to visit overtime, shaving Bri’s head and sticking around with her. Monica actually bled on one of Bri’s reports, and stole Bri’s nurses from her. 

 

After day 120 of post-transplant, it was time to return home. Bri got home, and what do you know? The air conditioner had caved in the room and flooded her room. She was forced to stay elsewhere while her insurance covered it. 

 

We have reached her final treatment. Bri stayed with Monica the whole week leading up to this. She made Bri ring the bell hard as she left for the final time. 

 

She got to meet her donor a year after the transplant at a Nashville Predators hockey game, and was seen on the jumbotron. 

 

Things are looking up now. Bri has started college online. She has been able to hang out with her friend Monica in Atlanta. This was a once a week five hour drive at least. They get together and plan out this trip to go to Panama City Beach on July 12. 

 

On July 6, 2021, Bri’s bestfriend Monica passed away from congestive heart failure. Her funeral was held the day her and Bri planned to go to the beach. She was considered family at the service and sat with Monica’s mother. 

 

Since then, Bri has moved to Georgia Southern, and is pursuing a career to be a public health attorney. “So I am really passionate about the political side of healthcare expanding rural health care, especially as someone you know, with a disability with a complex medical history,” said Bri. 

 

While Bri has been, she has done all she can to be active. She is one of the co-founders of the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group. This is where she met one of her really good friends, Lorena Martinez. They have not only grown together through SDAG, but they also work at the George Anne Media Group at Georgia Southern. 

 

“I didn’t think we’d connect over time and become as close as we are now,” Lorena said. “She knew I felt excluded and alone for a huge part of my life, and always made sure to make me feel included in events, trips, and get-togethers when we were in SDAG.”

 

“She has always been thoughtful of me, and I am so grateful for that,” Lorena said. 

 

Off campus, Bri is in a disabilities law fellowship, advocates for the disabled community in many forms, and runs her own nonprofit organization. Bri’s Butterfly Boxes focuses on helping people diagnosed with life threatening illnesses document and cope with their experiences by giving scrapbooking supplies and comfort items.

 

Through the years of pain, loss, and sickness, Brianne Dollar still decides to get up every morning and does everything she can to live for those who wouldn’t be able to. She is happy that she has been able to be there to comfort families through the tough times of battling cancer. 

 

“And it’s, I get the opportunity to live for them and live the life that they would want,” Bri said. “I think that gets me out of bed because I know they would want to be here and they would want to see me happy.”

 

Read Bri’s article on being cancer-free here! Reflecting on being cancer-free

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About the Contributors
Blake Williams, Co-Editor in Chief, The George-Anne
Carly Kennedy, Writer-Content Creator, Deep Dive

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