Weekly Tips & Insights

Patient Story: Bryan Miller Defies the Odds and Writes Her Own Health Story

If you’re a classical music enthusiast, Bryan Miller is probably a familiar name. She has been the classical music columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for over 22 years. She is a gifted writer with a remarkable ability to bring music to life for readers.


Throughout her celebrated career, she has journeyed from Kansas City to Chicago raised two daughters. She has faced professional scrutiny and personal challenges along the way, but her love for the arts and zest for life have kept her spirits high.


Bryan’s positive outlook has served her well over the last 10 years as she has faced the biggest challenge in her 68-year life: her health. Bryan has stage 3 inflammatory breast carcinoma, a very rare and aggressive cancer that only comes in stages 3 and 4. She’s spent several years going through chemotherapy treatments, surgery and other radiation treatments. During her care, doctors discovered a second, unrelated early-stage cancer in the other breast, which two years later, metastasized into her sacrum. It later spread into her brain, bones and liver. It has not been an easy road for her, but she keeps fighting.


Over the last several months, Bryan has required more support. She enlisted in a study at the Siteman Cancer Center that she credits has helped her defy the odds of her prognosis and maintain a good quality of life.


“I enjoy annoying doctors,” says Bryan. “Back in February, after I had developed pneumonia, my oncologist told me very kindly that he expected me to die by mid- to late April. He said it was possible we could have a conversation on May 1st, but he’d be surprised. He gave me his personal phone number. So on May 1st, I called him and briefly reminded him of our conversation, and he laughed and said he didn’t mind being wrong when it was for something like that.”


VNA’s Advanced Illness Management program has also provided Bryan support by helping manage her pain associated with her cancer. She was referred to the Visiting Nurse Association during a week-long hospital stay. It was a confusing time for her, and she needed aid. VNA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mary Fox met with her, and Bryan remembers it being the longest session she’d ever had with a physician. “Dr. Fox was great,” she says. “She took her time, asked questions and listened to answers.”


Tammy Nigh, one of VNA’s nurse practitioners, now manages her care. She helps Bryan with things like getting transfusions and in-home labs. She also helps her prepare for doctor visits and treatments. “Visiting Nurse Association is helping me to maintain my quality of life. I feel cared for. They’re attentive, they listen to me and when they look at me, they see me, and that’s a good feeling,” says Bryan.


Bryan continues to fight, and the VNA is honored to be a part of her care journey. She still writes for the Post Dispatch, which helps her remain positive. As she continues to share her gift, she also wants to spend time helping others. She says, “I’m always happy to share anything that might help. I have been helped by others, so if I can do anything to give back, I’m happy to.”


She is truly writing her own story on where her life will lead.


For more information regarding Visiting Nurse Association’s Advanced Illness Management program, visit here.

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