Going into her senior year of high school, Brianne Dollar, was looking forward to all of the senior activities such as prom and graduation. Just a couple of weeks into the start of the school year, Brianne found herself with a case of strep throat that would not go away despite medication and rest. She started struggling to focus and experiencing extreme fatigue. After many visits to urgent care, she finally saw a doctor who took blood and sent it to the lab. She had no idea how drastically her life was about to change. 

On November 16, 2017, Brianne was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow which is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. She was immediately admitted to the ICU and shortly after she started the first of four rounds of chemotherapy. 

Brianne describes the entire process as “surreal.” The chemotherapy regimen she was on required 7-10 days of treatment followed by many days in the hospital. Her shortest hospital stay during her treatment was 28 days and her longest was 46 days. Throughout this first round of treatment, her goal was to be home for Christmas and be able to attend her senior prom. Her Christmas at home wish came true, though she spent all of the other major holidays inside the hospital. Sadly, her wish to attend her senior prom did not come true as she went into sepsis shock the week before prom. Instead her nurses threw her a senior prom at the hospital. 

In May 2018, Brianne completed her treatment and entered remission for the first time. She attended her high school graduation and was able to walk across the stage to receive her diploma. She started working to rebuild her life as a teenager entering adulthood and began working as a 911 dispatcher. She was continuously being monitored by doctors and at her 6 month check up in November 2018, her bloodwork came back with low hemoglobin levels; an indication that she may have relapsed. She was struggling with gastro-intestinal issues and back pain which she thought might just be a result of her grueling work schedule. After more tests, it was confirmed on December 6, 2018 that her cancer had returned. 

The doctors knew the best chance of remission would be a bone marrow transplant. After her initial diagnosis, her sister was tested and was identified as a near match, but the doctors wanted as close to a perfect match as possible for Brianne’s transplant. Once the cancer returned, the doctors began searching for a match and Brianne and her family started making a plan to receive the transplant in Atlanta (the nearest transplant center over 4 hours away from home). 

Brianne was notified by Gift of Life that a perfect match had been found and she underwent intensive chemotherapy and a 35 day stint in the hospital to remove all of her bone marrow in preparation for the transplant.

On February 28, 2019 she received her transplant and a second chance at life. It wasn’t an easy path to remission after the transplant as Brianne was diagnosed with a disease where the implanted cells start attacking your body. Her gut and mouth were most impacted with sores that made it difficult to eat. She was on a lot of powerful medication and experienced a host of complications.

However, she once again entered remission. 

A few days shy of her first re-birthday, Brianne had the chance to meet her donor, Tony Joe, in person at a Nashville Predators game.

Brianne still struggles with neuropathy and has trouble walking long distances. She often relies on the use of a cane or wheelchair to get around. Bone marrow transplant recipients start at zero with their immune system and must be extremely careful.

Being as close to a cure as possible, Brianne was excited to restart her life, despite a global pandemic. She started college at a Georgia Southern University satellite campus close to home, and attended virtually for the first few semesters. She moved to the main campus in Fall 2021 and was excited to finally live on her own and start her life as an adult. 

“I didn’t really have a normal transition into adulthood,” says Brianne. “My life revolved around being a cancer patient and it was hard to transition back to a life outside of cancer.”

When asked what she has taken away from her experience with AML, Brianne says “I’ve learned how much people and time matter. You gain a different perspective when you’ve lost so much time being sick.”

She found out about Omega Phi Alpha while looking for partners on campus for Gift of Life registry drives. She says she wrote her name down at an OPhiA table to be nice but was contacted by a friend who was a member. She attended an info night and the rest is history!

Brianne joined Alpha Delta Chapter in Spring 2022 and attended Omega Phi Alpha’s National Convention this past July in Fort Worth, TX. 

“Giving back has always been something that I’ve done but it means a lot more to me now than it used to,” Brianne says.

Brianne is passionate about the Gift of Life because she received the gift of a second chance at life. She currently serves as an intern and campus ambassador for Gift of Life. She has registered over 300 people for the bone marrow registry and has helped find 6 matches.

Gift of Life recognized Brianne’s hard work and dedication by presenting her with the Steve Bochco Award, a huge honor, at their annual gala in May 2022. 

Brianne is so excited to share Gift of Life with the members of Omega Phi Alpha and hopes to register 800 members to the bone marrow registry during our upcoming Gift of Life week which will be held February 12-19, 2023.