Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Spotlighting Survivor Brittany Fink
In the U.S., 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While research into breast cancer has led to new imaging tests for earlier diagnoses and additional treatment options, breast cancer is still the most common cancer in American women except for skin cancers. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. And though it is far more common in women than in men, it is estimated that 2,650 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is recognized each October, raising awareness about the importance of early detection and the need for additional research into the causes of, and potential treatments for, breast cancer. At Goodness Growth Holdings, we know the importance of research in identifying effective treatments and medications or therapies that can help preserve quality of life, and we support these research efforts.
This October, we sat down with Brittany Fink, Director of Patient Services at our Minneapolis, MN Green Goods location, to talk about her experience with breast cancer. Brittany shared why she’s glad she paid attention to changes in her body despite her young age, how medical cannabis helped her find relief – and rest – while going through chemo, and how facing breast cancer has changed her perspective.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live now? Do you have family you want to mention?
I am originally from Minot, ND. I moved to Virginia Beach, VA on a whim in 2014 which is where I met my husband, Roger. He and I made the tough decision to relocate to ND in 2019 when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just a few short months after supporting her through her journey, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After months of surgeries, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, I learned I was in remission on October 17, 2019! My husband and I then made the decision to move to Minneapolis – still being close to family but more opportunities for both of us, professionally and personally.
Tell us about your role at Goodness Growth/Green Goods. What is your title?
I recently began my career at Goodness Growth/Green Goods back in July and I couldn’t have made a better decision! I am currently the DPS (Director of Patient Services) in our downtown Minneapolis, MN location.
You have battled breast cancer. What was it like when you received that diagnosis?
As I mentioned, I was dealing with my mom’s diagnosis in early 2019. I felt a lump and assumed it was nothing… I was only 31! People don’t get breast cancer at this age. If I wasn’t in the trenches with my mom, I probably wouldn’t have taken the changes in my own body seriously. However, I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist who ordered an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy. My doctor called me on April 1st (April Fool’s Day!) and told me the results of my biopsy came back as malignant. I remember asking him, “This is an April Fool’s joke, isn’t it?!” I was in complete shock and numb to the emotions that a cancer diagnosis would rightfully bring. Adrenaline took over and I knew it was time to fight.
What was one thing that helped as you were going through treatment?
I had an incredible support system: my husband, my parents, my friends. My husband quit his full-time job and started a work-from-home business just so he could attend every appointment with me. My long-distance friends flew into Rochester, MN, to be by my side during my bilateral mastectomy.
Did medical cannabis play a part in your fight against breast cancer? If so, how?
After my first chemotherapy session, I was miserable. The pain, the nausea, the fatigue – it was all too much to handle. There were moments when I remember feeling like I would rather die than go through another chemo session. I wasn’t really open to the idea of medical cannabis until my husband saw how much pain I was in and told me to just try it.
“I have nothing to lose,” I thought.
Within minutes, I found relief. I broke down. It was the first time I’d cried since being diagnosed. My pain was relieved, the nausea went away, and I was finally able to rest. I couldn’t believe it. I was prescribed 15 different things to help manage the side effects of treatment and medical cannabis was the only thing that provided relief.
What is one thing you wish people knew about breast cancer, or about what it’s like to have breast cancer?
When someone you love has been diagnosed, it will probably be your first instinct to give advice or share a story of someone else you know with breast cancer. It is so important not to do this. While it almost always is coming from a good place, someone who has been newly diagnosed just needs to know you are there, to love, support, and listen.
Do you have any advice for people facing a new breast cancer diagnosis?
As cliche as it sounds, just take it one day at a time. Everyone’s journey is so different and processing those emotions can seem scary and overwhelming; it’s important to remember to keep doing things you enjoy. I was a runner pre-diagnosis and even though I couldn’t run during treatment, it still felt so good to get outside and take my dog to our favorite running paths by the river for a nice walk.
What was it like to hear that your cancer was in remission?
I didn’t really believe it at first. I was fighting for my life for months on end and one day, it was all just supposed to be over? Of course, there was joy and relief, but the journey doesn’t just end at remission.
Is there anything you have changed after your experience?
I live life differently now. I changed my career and joined Goodness Growth/Green Goods to be able to work in an industry that I am so passionate about. I take the girls’ trips, weekend getaways, and vacations with my loved ones. My perspective has completely shifted, and I don’t sweat the small stuff, because most of it really doesn’t matter anyway. I make it a point to reach out to my family and friends often and tell them I love them; life is way too short.
Is there anyone you want to shout-out?
My husband, Roger, for being such an incredible partner through the toughest part of my life. For supporting me, loving me, and telling me I am beautiful every single day.
My friend, Dena Stephens, for cooking, cleaning, and caring for me in a way that still brings me to tears today.
My dear parents who, while dealing with mother’s diagnosis, were still very active in my treatment and care.
My boss, Cindy Hupf. She was my leader at my previous job and showed me incredible kindness, compassion, and support throughout my journey. When she joined the Goodness Growth/Green Goods group, I knew I needed to find a way to work for her again and be a part of this incredible organization.
Thank you, Brittany, for sharing your insightful story with us!