Patient First staff rallies around colleague battling breast cancer

ERIE, Pa., Nov. 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- In 2016, Brittany Lauer Tomkins moved out of her small suburban neighborhood in Erie, Pa., after calling it home her entire life. At 30 years old, she moved to Baltimore to begin a new life with her fiancé. It was a time of happiness and hope for an exciting future.

Although the bliss of young love surrounded the new couple, Brittany missed having her family and friends close by.

In spring 2016, Brittany was offered an opportunity to become a full time x-ray trainer at Patient First. The new job would make her transition to Baltimore much easier, and her new colleagues would become the second family that she yearned for.

Brittany said she loves her job and for the entire three years that she has worked at Patient First she has never missed a day of work.

That all changed on August 28, 2019, when a routine visit to Brittany's gynecologist led to scheduling an emergency mammogram and ultrasound of both breasts.


The tests found two tumors.

By September 4, biopsies showed that one was a cyst, but the other was not. Rather, it was stage 2-3 cancer of the breast and lymph nodes. On September 12, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan indicated that the cancer had spread to Brittany's liver.

Four days later, a liver biopsy would confirm the devastating news that Brittany, a newlywed for just three short months, has stage 4 breast cancer.

"The truth is, I was meant to have this," Brittany said. "There's nothing I could have done to change this."


Brittany's treatment consists of daily oral chemotherapy, which she prefers to take before bed. She hopes to sleep through the nausea side-effects. When she wakes up, the side-effects are achy joints which keep her moving slowly for most of the morning.

Although there is no cure for her diagnosis, Brittany said the goal of her treatment is to maintain a high quality of life as long as possible.

To help brighten her days, Brittany's coworkers have turned her office cubicle into a princess castle. Jaime Saverese, assistant senior regional trainer, used her personal craft machine to make shirts for the team in Brittany's office and for the staff at multiple Patient First centers. Jaime already has made over 30 shirts for staff, and orders keep coming in.

'Her Fight is My Fight' is the message on the shirts that Brittany's six close-knit teammates wear. 'Beware. I Fight Back' is the message on Brittany's personalized shirt.

"When we found out about Brittany's diagnosis, we were all upset and wanted to find something that we could do," said Jaime, who has been with Patient First for 10 years.
According to Jaime, she and the rest of Brittany's team are always there to talk Brittany through her treatment and experiences and to be a support structure for her.

"Whenever I have gone through a tough time, I've always gotten support from my supervisor," Jaime said. "I never felt like a number. I felt like a person."

"And I am glad that Brittany is getting that same support. She really needs it."

Melissa Dooley, a part-time x-ray technologist at Patient First who Brittany trained, became a confidant for Brittany and a friend that checks in with her from time to time as she goes through her treatment.

"She was my angel that day," Brittany said of Melissa, who was there to support her at her mammogram.

Brittany's team has gone so far as to take her to some of her appointments, she said, including Imani Mulzac, assistant senior regional trainer at Patient First, who is one of the close-knit six that are rallying for Brittany.

"The girls I work with are my second family, for sure," Brittany said.

Other shirts and wristbands are circulating in the company with hashtags #TeamBrittany, #BrittanyStrong and #TeamBritters.

"The support is immeasurable," Brittany said.


Brittany turned to Facebook to tell her story, with hope to inspire and educate other women and the community. She said she felt that she needed to start putting her thoughts down.

"I am trying to use it as a metastatic platform," Brittany said.

In a short while after opening her Facebook page to the public, Brittany posted on the day that she received the news of her diagnosis. The post had 8,000 views.

"I don't even know 8,000 people," Brittany said. "I never thought I made much of a difference to anyone."

Brittany has learned some key insights that she shares as part of her metastatic breast cancer platform on social media:

    --  You are never too young to have breast cancer
        --  If something feels off, get it checked, don't wait.
    --  Be your own advocate
        --  Nobody knows your body better than you.
    --  Acceptance
        --  There is no point in worrying about what you could have done.
        --  Accept exactly where you are in life.
        --  This is exactly where you are supposed to be.

Brittany is inspired by the women who, after hearing her story, have gone on to make their own mammogram appointment.

"I will tell my story to anyone. My Uber driver even made an appointment for a mammogram after hearing my story," Brittany said.

"There is so much good that I am spreading."

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            Jennifer Glose

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SOURCE Patient First