This story of strength in the face of life’s obstacles has us in tears. Briana Donis was just getting ready to head off to college last year when she learned she had a life-threatening disease. Diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition where the body’s bone marrow stops producing enough blood cells, Donis immediately underwent treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation and lots of various medicines, as well as two bone marrow transplant surgeries – the first of which failed, and the second currently under observation.
The illness, which affects about 900 people in the US per year, came by surprise and changed her life. Donis first noticed unusual bruising on her leg which set off alarms that something wasn’t right.
“It didn’t hit me until I saw what I couldn’t do. What I was no longer able to do, be a normal kid, or go to the university I wanted to,” Donis said in an interview with ABC 13.
It’s been an incredibly tough year for the 19-year-old, who still manages to maintain an amazingly strong and poised point of view.
One year after her diagnosis, to the day, Donis shared a photo of herself, of her old self, saying: “This girl in this photo was the old Bri exactly one year ago, March 14th 2014, my diagnosis date. That girl is dead. She died that day and has turned into someone brand new and I’m here to officially put her to rest. She started this journey for me and I thank her for it and for leading me into the woman that I am today, but she no longer lives within me. She’s a stranger to me, so is my past.”
Besides being an awesomely strong and wise human being, part of what helped her get through it all, to let go and step into her new self, was her yoga practice.
For the past year, Donis has been doing yoga in the Texas Children’s Hospital, where she spends most of her time while undergoing treatment. Her immune system is so weak from the chemo that she has to wear a special mask to breathe through, her body is fatigued from the illness, and yet she’s been able to keep up her yoga and share photos of her practice almost every day on instagram. It’s not just about the physical poses, though.
“I like yoga because it challenges the inner me and the physical me,” she told BuzzFeed in March. “I started it because it was a challenge that I knew if I put my mind to it, I could do it. It wasn’t the kind of exercise I was used to. It was more personal. It was my own journey and not just a physical one.”
Now, instagram selfies have been under debate, but believe us when we tell you, dammit, we couldn’t be more proud of the insta yoga community for rallying around Donis and becoming an amazing support system of love and positive encouragement.
“The progress is what keeps me engaged,” she explained to Buzzfeed. “Keeping up with challenges and a yoga community in instagram holds me accountable and pushes me to keep trying everyday. There’s never any failure, only success in a journey with yoga.”
The strength that Donis has shown is truly an inspiration and we are humbled by her tenacious spirit.
Here are just a few of her posts and poses:
Not quite the perfect pose…but my Dharma Yoga Wheel came at quite the perfect time! I don’t believe in coincidences anymore! Thank you soooooooo much @yogivaruna @leela_om ❤️ God bless you guys and what you do and what you did for me!! I’ll have a real pose with my wheel soon enough! #brianavsaplasticanemia #yogaeverydamnday #myGodisbigger #transplantday #thatsmytransplantinthemiddlebtwhaha
Day 2 and Day 3: Parsvakonasana B & Prasarita Padottanasana A. #detoxyobody Okay so I know this is late butttt I still did it In the twisted side angle pose, my legs were trembling…not use to that. But I take the trembling as a good sign a sign that something is building or being used!! I can’t wait to see how I do that pose in one week from now. I bet with ease! The second picture, I did exactly as @kinoyoga and @beachyogagirl but for now, this is how wide and forward I could fold I wanna praise God for this. I could have been one of the ones that lost their way, but nope He’s given me a new beginning. ❤️ #thankful #baldisbeautiful #whyilooksodarkdoe #ihaventbeeninthesunforoveramonthsowhyigotthistan #bethematch #brionellen @aloyoga
Day 24: Ananda Balasana | Happy Baby Pose #LetsGETFlexyIn2015 Yoga Challenge | Fought against the doctors to do my pose today, had two other doctors come in and tell me not to, had my nurse tell me I couldn’t, then had my nurse tell my doctor when she found out I already did haha @kinoyoga @beachyogagirl @aloyoga #brianavsaplasticanemia #yogaeverydamnday
Day 8: Eka Pada Sirasana| One Foot Behind the Head #LetsGETFlexyIn2015 Yoga Challenge | Not exactly behind my head, but I’m so happy with my progress and where I am. To me, the journey is the absolute best part! So rewarding ❤️ @kinoyoga @beachyogagirl @aloyoga
“So whatever it is, your sickness, your problem, your insecurity, you are bigger than that. And you get to control your happiness despite your situation,” says Donis.