Single mom bravely faces stage four cancer diagnosis
Family, community rally to help with bills, expenses
WILMINGTON- Megan Bratton, a 29-year-old Wilmington native and single mother, was never the one asking for help.
Most of the time she’s been the one doing the helping, which was why, after being diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer in December, it took a lot of coaxing from Bratton’s cousin Karisa Bratton to get her to agree to let her start a GoFundMe campaign for her.
The campaign, which was set up to help cover Bratton’s medical bills as well as expenses for herself and her 11-year-old daughter, is still going strong, and Bratton says that she is grateful for all the support the Deerfield Valley community has given her. Not only have many old friends from Twin Valley High School reached out to support Bratton, but businesses like Twice Blessed have sent along kind words and a gift card to Shaw’s to help.
Bratton’s struggles with cancer started last May. After feeling some pain and experiencing abnormal bleeding, Bratton saw a doctor, who referred her to a specialist in Claremont, NH. After extensive tests there, Bratton learned that she had cervical cancer, but at the time she was only in stage one.
“The doctor compared it to being on a highway,” Bratton explained. “She said the cancer wasn’t on the highway yet, it was barely on the on-ramp.”
Many tests later, and after exploring her options, Bratton and her doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center decided to remove the tumor and do a hysterectomy to ensure that the cancer did not return. The decision was made to leave one ovary intact. Her doctors believed that her tumor was only 3 centimeters but during the surgery they learned that it was actually 4.35 centimeters. Bratton’s doctor went ahead with the hysterectomy. She removed the tumor and both ovaries while Bratton was under anesthesia. This meant that Bratton started to experience the hormonal changes that come with menopause along with her recovery from surgery and chemotherapy.
Bratton’s doctors told her that with this surgery and the chemotherapy to follow she could make a full recovery, and she began to make plans for the future. She and her daughter, who suffers from apraxia and dyspraxia, neurological disorders that affect her ability to speak and the movement of her limbs, moved to the Granville, NY area to be with Bratton’s boyfriend and his two children. She got a job at a hardware store before taking a dream job at TD Bank in Granville.
“I’m a worker. I like to work, ” she says, and Bratton has never been one to shy away from hard work; once she felt that her health was better, she wanted to get back to work and get her life back to normal.
That is when the pain came back stronger than before. It started with severe back pain. “I cried myself to sleep some nights from sheer exhaustion from the pain. No one could give me answers. No one could tell me what was wrong with me.” She continued to see doctors and ask for help, but during COVID it was hard to get appointments even with symptoms as severe as hers. There were times when Bratton felt the doctors weren’t really listening to her.
At her new job, although Bratton had told the bank that the medication she was on for her cancer treatment made her sleepy, they reprimanded her for dozing off at work. When she asked to take a third day off to go to a medical appointment the bank told her that she would not have a job if she took another day off. Bratton chose to put her health first and was let go. “I was new there,” she said. “I didn’t have any paid time off.”
In December, Bratton learned the source of her pain. Her cancer was back and it had come back stronger. Instead of stage one her cancer was now at stage four and it had spread to parts of her liver. The severe back pain she had been experiencing was caused by a tumor pressing against her spine.
Bratton began treatment at C.R. Woods Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital in Glens Falls, NY. “They made me feel like I was at least a person,” Bratton said of her experience there. “I cried and they hugged me. Even during COVID they hugged me.”
Knowing what was wrong was helpful but it didn’t take the sting out of the diagnosis. “You think you’re prepared to watch your hair fall out during chemo. You know it’s going to happen but it’s different when it actually happens.”
Bratton’s greatest concern is for her daughter. She has had to navigate the unfamiliar ground of remote schooling with her daughter while recovering from intense chemo treatments and the other perils of her stage four diagnosis. Bratton wants to make sure that her daughter is provided for and that she will be OK if anything should happen to her. Throughout everything Bratton says she counted on the support of her mother, Karen Bratton, who has helped her a lot with her daughter. Bratton recently moved back to Wilmington to live with her mother while she tries to fight her cancer and help her daughter transition back to town.
Karisa Bratton set up the GoFundMe campaign to help give her cousin some sense of security.
“I’m a saver. I’ve saved all my life but this has drained my savings,” Megan Bratton said. Her doctors told her that she cannot work and yet two weeks ago she learned that she was denied disability insurance benefits, though the agency did tell her that she could reapply.
Through everything Bratton has kept a positive attitude. Through the pain and her worries she has seen that there are a lot of people who care. “Coming from a small town, they have really helped me out,” she says of the Deerfield Valley community.
In fact, Bratton, along with a few old friends from Twin Valley High School, is planning a girls’ day at the beach this summer. Since her class missed their 10-year high school reunion due to COVID, she thinks this will be a great way to see old friends and relax. While Bratton is still fighting this disease for herself and her family, she’s been upbeat and hopeful. “I’m ready for some sun,” Bratton said when she explained her plans.
Megan Bratton’s GoFundMe campaign can be found at https://gofund.me/05a1c712. Any donations are welcome and all donations go toward Bratton’s medical expenses and necessary living expenses for herself and her daughter.