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Waynesboro High grad pursues education despite diagnosis

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

brianna hayes hospital
Brianna Hayes

WAYNESBORO — Five years ago, Brianna Haynes began feeling sick.

One day she felt so sick she went to the hospital and find out she had a gall stone, so her gall bladder was removed.

But the 2019 Waynesboro High School graduate, who still lives in the River City, kept feeling tired.

After changing doctors, she was diagnosed in August 2017 with chronic myeloid leukemia. Individuals over age 65 are usually diagnosed with this type of leukemia.

Haynes was in high school.

“I’m kind of a unique case,” said Haynes, 20.

She takes a pill every day to suppress her white blood cell count.

“I’m not feeling as bad as I was,” Haynes said.

Chronic myeloid leukemia, also known as CML or chronic myelogenous leukemia, is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Irregular white blood cells grow in the bone marrow and collect in the blood of individuals with CML. Eventually, the irregular white blood cells overtake the healthy white blood cells, as well as red blood cells and platelets.

The pill Haynes takes every day weakens her bones. Joking around with her sister one day, Haynes’s sister kicked her in the leg and broke Haynes’s femur bone.

Haynes said she was going to do chemotherapy.

She traveled to Duke University where her little sister was going to donate stem cell, but doctors said not enough leukemia was detected in Haynes’s bone marrow to justify a transplant.

She said she used to go to the hospital once a week, now she goes once every three months.

Ultimately, she would like to get a stem cell transplant.

brianna hayesIn the meantime, Haynes is focused on attending four classes this spring semester at Piedmont Virginia Community College, paid for by a scholarship and financial aid provided by the college.

After this semester, Haynes said she will have only two classes left before she can enter a radiology program.

Haynes is the first member of her family to pursue a college education.

Her leukemia diagnosis encouraged her to pursue a career as a radiation oncologist.

“I was going to school to be a nurse at first,” she said.

After her diagnosis in 2017, “radiology seems like a better fit for me.”

She hopes to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to finish her degree.

“I’m just grateful, very blessed,” Haynes said.

She is particularly grateful of the community support she has received, including from The MaDee Project.

“It’s changed my life in so many ways,” she said of the community support.

Haynes offered advice for young individuals battling illness.

“Not to give up. Stay positive. There’s a reason you’re going through this. There’s a reason God gave this to you,” Haynes said.

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