MOMS Club supports member through breast cancer treatment

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Jinna Bryant surrounded by friends following her “head shaving party.”

Following a routine mammogram last November, Jinna Bryant was caught off guard when she received a call that she needed to come back for extra scans.

When Bryant returned for the ultrasound, the radiologist suggested a biopsy on the “suspicious cells” they had detected during her mammogram.  When they asked her to come back only three days later, the gravity of the situation still hadn’t hit Bryant. “It didn’t dawn on me that they’re calling me back for a reason, they’re having me come in for a reason,” says Bryant.

The nurse navigator informed Bryant and her husband that Bryant had a ductal carcinoma in her left breast.  “The first thing I said was, ‘Am I going to die?’” recalls Bryant. “The second thing I said is, ‘I have a three year old.’”

Bryant with daughter Skylar

What followed for Bryant was a series of medical procedures to understand the extent of the cancer and determine the best plan of treatment.  An MRI revealed a cancerous growth of 4.4 cm that had not yet spread to Bryant’s lymph nodes. Genetic testing revealed that Bryant’s cancer was not hereditary; further testing showed that Bryant was positive for HER2, a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells in the body.

The results of Bryant’s genetic testing meant she could avoid a double mastectomy, but the 4.4 cm growth was large enough that a lumpectomy would mean cutting a large portion of her left breast away.  Bryant’s oncologist suggested six rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the cancer prior to attempting a lumpectomy.

The every-three-weeks treatment places an incredible strain on Bryant physically.  After her first chemotherapy treatment, Bryant suffered from severe, continual diarrhea for over ten days.  She spent most of her time in bed exhausted and nauseated. Her skin became irritated and inflamed, breaking out into rashes, chapping and bleeding.

Two and a half weeks after her first round of chemotherapy, only days before her second treatment, Bryant was shocked to see the bottom of her shower filled with hair.  “I started crying and called for my husband because it was just shocking and scary at the same time,” says Bryant. “Women, we identify ourselves by our hair. It was just coming out in clumps.”

The massive physical toll of chemotherapy is only one of the many hurdles breast cancer patients like Bryant face.  Bryant invests a great deal of time and energy in tending to the various side effects from the chemotherapy: Aquaphor oil and eczema gloves on her hands nightly to treat chapping and cracking, homemade ginger water with honey to combat nausea, CBD oil to fight fatigue, saline spray to ward off bloody noses, and constant application of neosporin and Aquaphor ointment on her nose.  She sees a holistic medical team, who alerted her to the fact that the fish oil and turmeric supplements she was taking could counteract her chemotherapy. She works with a nutritionist who helps her plan out the high-protein, low-fiber meals that will keep her from the rapid weight loss associated with chemotherapy.

“It’s a full time job,” says Bryant.  “I would not be able to make it – my family would not be getting through this – if I didn’t have the MOMS Club,” says Bryant.

It’s difficult for Bryant to articulate the myriad ways in which the women of the MOMS Club of Mint Hill have banded together to support her since her diagnosis last fall.  Some of their support has come in the form of small, thoughtful gifts, like a warm blanket to use during long, cold chemotherapy sessions or homemade unscented lotion for Bryant’s dry hands.  Other times it’s helping Bryant manage all the aspects of the job of fighting cancer: attending doctors’ appointments to be a second set of ears, keeping Bryant company during long chemotherapy sessions, and helping with childcare so Bryant can attend appointments, manage her medical treatment and even just rest.

The MOMS Club also helps substantially with purchasing and preparing food for the Bryant family through an effort spearheaded by members Emily D’Elia and Jennifer Stanley.  “What Emily and I envisioned was taking the logistical and financial pressure off of her by paying for, shopping and delivering her groceries each week through the end of her chemo treatments,” say Stanley, who also utilizes her background in nutrition to help Bryant come up with meal plans that fit her medical team’s dietary recommendations.  “My goal is to help her enjoy food as much as possible and focus on the macronutrients that will help to satiate her as well as slow her rapid weight loss.”

“A lot of people, I just don’t think they realize the financial hardship and the stress and the toll it takes on your whole family,” says Bryant.  The Bryants have insurance, but it comes at a heavy cost: about $800 a month from her husband’s check. A high deductible means Bryant pays $2500 out-of-pocket for treatment before the bulk of her benefits kick in.  In fact, because Bryant was diagnosed in November, she has already paid that deductible twice: once in 2018 and again when her benefits reset at the start of the new year. Now that she has reached her deductible, Bryant still finds herself shouldering 20% of her own medical costs in addition to copays for doctor visits and drugs.  Lab work that Bryant is required to have before each chemotherapy treatment is only partially covered.

“Every time I turn around there’s something that’s not covered, or it is covered, but we have to pay a certain percent that they don’t cover,” sighs Bryant.  All of these expenses add up to hundreds of dollars out of pocket every month in addition to the already hefty cost of insurance coverage.

There are also so many costly things that improve Bryant’s health and the quality of her life that fall outside the scope of insured medical treatment.  Bryant’s wig is a prime example. A high-quality, natural-looking wig can cost hundreds of dollars, but Bryant’s insurance offers no coverage for a “cosmetic” expense.  Bryant’s treatment center offers a “lending library” of sorts, but Bryant grimaces to remember what she saw there. “You wouldn’t feel good about yourself,” she says shaking her head.  A gift from the her sister supplemented by funds donated by the MOMS Club allowed Bryant to purchase a high-quality, natural-looking wig that resembles her own former hair.

Bryant was able to purchase a high-quality wig thanks to generous gifts from her sister and the MOMS Club.

Other “small” expenses seem to pop up everywhere.  Bryant has had to change her skin care routine, incorporating new ointments, creams and gentle cleansers.  She has had to purchase loose-fitting sports bras and shirts that don’t irritate her chemo port. Stocking her kitchen with the organic products recommended by her nutritionist is costly.  Over-the-counter supplements that improve Bryant’s health and mood like probiotics and CBD oil come out of pocket. Recommended treatments like oncology massage and acupuncture come at a high cost.  “I don’t have to have all these things,” ventures Bryant. “But I do. All these little things start adding up. It gets costly.”

To help Bryant and her family shoulder these expenses, the MOMS Club is holding a rummage sale at New Beginnings Church on March 30 from 9:00 – 1:00. “As a club we are always buying and selling and trading things with each other,” says Jennifer Allen, who is organizing the sale.  “Most of us are environmentally and financially conscious, so we like to buy secondhand. And with the huge Marie Kondo trend right now, I figured it would be a good way for people to declutter their own lives and help someone else at the same time.”  The event will also feature a bake sale.

Financial support is an important factor, but perhaps even more important is simply being there for friends and loved ones undergoing breast cancer treatment.  “One of the best things people can do is just call and check in and see how I’m doing,” says Bryant. “That for me was one of the biggest things because you feel like you’re alone, like they don’t understand what you’re going through.  That for me was huge. Anytime someone calls me and just says, ‘Hey, Jinna, how are you doing today? Is there anything you need?’ That for me is being more supportive than anything. I don’t want to downplay all the gifts, but giving your time and being there to listen, that’s what we need more than anything.”

Bryant credits the support she has received from her friends in the MOMS Club with helping her through her diagnosis and treatment.

“Having this support group is truly what’s getting me through this,” concludes Bryant.  “I feel like I was put in the right place at the right time with the right people. I can’t say thank you enough.”

To donate or help with the rummage sale, contact Jennifer Allen at

To help with monetary expenses for meals for the Bryant family, contact Jennifer Stanley at

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: