EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — A cancer diagnosis is hard to live with, especially when you’re 23 years old.
An Excelsior Springs woman is spending her early 20s dealing with surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy to treat her stage four breast cancer.
Brianna Raffel recently moved back home to Missouri to be closer to her family and her new care team at the University of Kansas Health System. Now that she’s home, her family is trying to do something special for her.
A patch of gravel at their Excelsior Springs home may not look like much, but soon it’ll be a small home.
“We’re actually going to build it right off of the side of the shed right there,” said Jared Raffel Brianna’s brother.
The “it” he’s referring to is a 650-square foot home with a bedroom, bathroom, and living space.
“As she progresses along, she’ll need her family to be around her. Hopefully by then she’ll be close to family and have her own independence down there in her own apartment,” he added.
Jared and his family are building it. Brianna, who says she’s “hopeful and [feels] l like everything happens for a reason.”
She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in July 2022 while working as a logistics specialist for the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans in Japan.
“It was rapidly growing. I found it when it was just a tiny little mass, and I said, ‘This is weird.’ I went to medical and they kind of didn’t believe me being 22 years old.”
Testing and biopsies confirmed her diagnosis on September 20, 2022. Brianna was then medically evacuated to San Diego to start treatment at Balboa Naval Hospital in October 2022.
In the months that followed, she underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as a handful of surgeries, including one for a double mastectomy in April.
“They told me that I was pretty much cancer-free based on the pathology. Turns out it had metastasized to my bones, so I was stage four,” she added.
During her mastectomy, they removed 19 lymph nodes from her right axilla; 14 were cancerous.
Now, she’s back home in Missouri, not only to be closer to family, but near a world-renowned oncologist at KU Hospital in Kansas City.
“My last oncologist told me I have a one-percent of a one-percent cancer, so I had a rare cancer but now I have an even rarer cancer,” she said.
Her family now hopes to do something for her by building a small apartment on their property. The idea is to give her some independence while also being less than 100 feet away if she needs help.
“It’s nice to be able to have my independence and be able to cook for myself, have my own shower, have my own living room to do whatever I want,” Brianna said.
A GoFundMe is up to make it a reality. The goal is $10,000 but her family thinks the final cost will be closer to $25,000. Right now, the plan is to lay the foundation as soon as possible. The money will go toward that and installing the framing and walls.
They hope to have it ready soon as Brianna will start 10 rounds of radiation at KU in the next few weeks.