July 25, 2019
It all started with intense lower back pain and months of misdiagnoses until finally, the diagnosis was clear: cancer. That was just the beginning of actress Brittany Daniel’s journey with Stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In our most recent, In Their Shoes episode, Daniel talks about the mental and physical health hurdles she experienced while undergoing cancer treatment.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. Symptoms can include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss, and generalized fatigue, so it can frequently be difficult to distinguish it from other illnesses, which often delays diagnosis.
Finally though, her doctors identified the problem and were quick to start chemotherapy, which came with its own challenges. With so much drastic change going on with her body, holding on to “normal life” became progressively difficult.
“There was a time where I was going through treatment and there was a woman sitting next to me and I could tell she was going in for a follow-up. But, she had her hair, She was happy and healthy, and I could tell she survived it.,” Daniel said. “I had no hair. I was frail. And, she looked at me, put her hand on my leg, and said, ‘you’re going to get through this.’ Because this woman had come out the other side, it immediately gave me hope. I remember thinking that I would give other people hope.”
Daniel decided to share her story with the world in 2014, three years after her diagnosis and states it was her close support system and family that enabled her to be so open about her journey.
“I didn’t feel alone”, she said. I always had people with me supporting me. If anything… I would say to anyone going through cancer is to surround yourself with a support system. [Initially], I kept it really private, just to family, but I realized I’m not completely healing from this. I finally realized that I had to share my story. I went through this for a reason…it wasn’t just a dark period in my life. I went through it to inspire others.”
It is this optimism which keeps Daniel going, and even joking. She takes a ‘been there, done that’ attitude to the disease and now uses her platform to inspire others.
“I look at it like…they say that one in three people are going to get cancer, well I already checked that box. Most people are afraid that in their 50s and 60s that they’re going to get cancer, but I was like ‘oh, I’ve already done that.’”