When Bria sings her favorite song, "I'm a Survivor" from Destiny's Child, she infuses the lyrics with special feeling few 9-year-olds can summon. Bria gained this inspiration the hard way, having learned at a tender age just what it means to be a survivor.
Bria's story of survival began with a trip to the family doctor several years ago. Carol, Bria's mother, asked the doctor to examine a hernia in the child's groin and also reported that Bria, then 6 years old, had been complaining of pain in her left leg and was limping slightly. The news that soon followed was something no parent should ever have to hear-Bria had cancer.
Bria was taken to the Cancer Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, where her family learned she had an aggressive form of bone cancer, called osteosarcoma, in her left thigh. Though the family faced an uncertain future, the Browns refused to let fear dictate their lives. And with the care and compassion Bria and her family received at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, today this energetic third grader is showing the world how to beat the odds.
Facing the Uncertain
Once Bria's cancer was detected, her parents Ed and Carol began the search for a pediatric cancer care program for their daughter. "Nicklaus Children's was our first choice because it was highly recommended by our family and friends," says Carol. "We were so relieved when they took her immediately."
To more accurately diagnose and treat Bria's newfound disease, Ziad Khatib, MD, hematology and oncology specialist, and a team of physicians in the Cancer Center at Nicklaus Children's proceeded with an MRI, biopsy and several other tests. Dr. Khatib determined that the cancer was a high-grade osteosarcoma, meaning that it was advancing rapidly and could possibly spread throughout Bria's body and into her lungs without prompt treatment.
Bravery in Battle
Bria's family reviewed their care choices with the Cancer Center team and chose chemotherapy over the more aggressive form of treatment- amputation of the leg. Bria underwent surgery at Nicklaus Children's to place a port in her chest to ease the chemotherapy sessions.
"Bria started her chemotherapy in June 2001," explains Dr. Khatib. "The treatment requires two to three days of hospitalization with each treatment, which she received every two to three weeks. We also saw her once or twice a week to check her blood count and tolerance of the chemotherapy. Each time she came in, we were impressed with her energy and upbeat attitude." Through it all —pain, nausea, hair loss and fatigue— Bria, her family and the medical staff of Nicklaus Children's held fast to a positive outlook for the future. As her chemotherapy was showing signs of success, the cancerous portion of Bria's thighbone was replaced with a metal prosthesis that would "grow" with her, with periodic adjustments. And in the spring of 2002, she completed her therapy.
Delighting in Life
Bria's cancer has been in remission for more than a year thanks to the treatment she received at Nicklaus Children's Cancer Center. Today she's just as active and energetic as ever. She's back at the North Dade Center for Modern Languages, playing basketball, riding her bike and serving on Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital's Kids' Council to help other children who are battling cancer. "We're thankful that through it all we had the care and support offered at Nicklaus Children's," Carol says. "From day one Bria fell in love with the hospital staff, and they fell in love with her. They treated my little girl like she was a queen."