Hello world, I am Brittney Freeman. I am 26 years old and born and raised in Oklahoma. Its interesting the phrase born and raised because we all say it. Except we are not all born the same, some of us are born on a special days such as Christmas, or maybe in a special way such as feet first. Then some of us, like me, are born with a special condition. I was born with bladder exstrophy. It is funny because it is so rare that even as I type the words my “spell checker” is creating a red line underneath it. Bladder exstrophy has been an amazing journey. In my unique journey I have faced much adversity, but more importantly it has been an amazing blessing. The condition in which I was born has shaped and changed my life in many ways. The first and most important way that it has shaped me is that I value every day I have to live. I have knocked on deaths door a few times within my short life, luckily it has not answered yet! Another way that it has shaped my life is that I value relationships. I used to keep my bladder exstrophy as a close held secret, I would only tell my closest friends. However if you know anything about pre-teen girls they do not keep secrets very well. So naturally growing up I did not trust many people. In elementary school I had to use a locker to keep my supplies in, this made me very different, which in turn made me a magnet for bullies. Finally after much speculation my mom decided it was time to inform the entire student body (all 100 kids) about my problem. This was a great relief to me because the older kids protected me from the school bullies. I could find the girls in 6th grade when I was in 2nd grade and tell them someone was bullying me and they would threaten to pummel them. As horrible as this sounds it was much better for them to bully my bullies than for me to continue to be the victim.
At 11, I had a major reconstructive surgery to rebuild my bladder. I use a catheter through a stoma that really looks like a belly button. Doctors do not believe that it is a stoma until I stick my catheter in to pee. I thank my doctor for this one. Dr. Bradley Kropp in Oklahoma city has truly shaped my life for the better. Before I had my surgery I was constantly wet. I has zero control of when I could go to the bathroom. He found a way to make it where I was dry. I am so thankful for him, and his brilliant mind!
Bladder exstrophy made it hard to trust people, as a child; but it became a trustworthy people magnet as I grew. I threw off the shame that I used to live with and began to grasp desperately onto self-assurance. I began telling every person I could about my “problem” (as I had coined it as a child), and this quickly showed me who could handle being a good friend. This “problem” is probably the reason that I am such a good friend. I know what it feels like to have friends hurt me, so I try to not hurt my friends. Enough of vague details let me tell you about me learning to shine. As I grew threw my teens and into adulthood I started using my problem to inspire and help others to believe in themselves. One of my favorite stories that I have is from when I was working in a hospital here in Oklahoma. I met a woman who was supposed to have a temporary colostomy bag, but the doctor could not reverse it so she would have to live with it for the rest of her life. She decided if that was the case then she would give up on living. She stopped eating, and refused to take medication, or basically do anything to improve her health after surgery. So my charge nurse sent me in to take care of her. We soon began talking and she told me her sob story. I then told her my LIFE story and tried my best to radiate positivity and hope. Before I left her she went for a walk and ordered food. I would say that in that moment I know why God gave me this problem, I now know I should have coined gift.
The best part of my life is my family and my friends. My number one fan, best friend, and shopping partner, my mother is one of the few people that can lift me up when I am sick, she is the strongest woman I know. I cannot imagine the fear she must have felt when I was born, and many times that I was sick as a child. She has an amazing strength. Especially because like I said earlier I have been very close to death a few times. She held me while I cried and spoke life into me when I was at my darkest times. She is the greatest woman to walk the earth! EVER. No one can change my mind on that. I am also a very lucky woman to be married to a very sexy man. Donnie, my husband is my partner in crime, my confidant, and the one person I know I can just fall into and he will catch me. He had a major transition to go from just a health man to taking care of a not always so healthy woman. I remember about 7 years ago I had a close to death scare on Easter and he thought I was normal person sick and left me to take care of myself. Ha! What a lesson learned. Hours after this I was almost flown in a health helicopter to Oklahoma City. At the time I’m sure he was terrified, but now I use it to perpetually tease him. If you haven’t notices yet, I am quite a feisty young lady, and all of you who don’t like it should take it up with my dad. He gave me a way to exercise my mind. He taught me to argue, to ask questions, and to stand up for what is right. I’m so thankful for his moral compass, and for being a light in my life that has guided me to be the intelligent, self-reliant woman that I am today. I also have a brother that always treated me like his sister and never a child with a birth defect. He is my original bully beater. I’m so thankful that he picked on me! He made me tough!
I have a bachelor’s degree in English Education from Northeastern State University. It is the leading educational college in the area. I am currently a teacher at a small school where I teach KYP. Keep your promises, because I know how hurtful broken promises can be. I use a caring heart and a strong mind to help shape future generations into great citizens, and hopefully great leaders.
My advice to anyone that may have a child with bladder exstrophy is to not keep it a secret, in fact tell everyone. If they don’t like it or maybe they don’t understand or care what you are going through. KICK THEM TO THE CURB! You do not need negativity, or shame in your life. And neither do your children. Never call bladder exstrophy their problem, call it a gift because it will make their life much more extraordinary, and never ordinary. I also say always remember that the joy of life is in the journey. Enjoy the journey.
I give all glory to the one I trust. God. I know that all I do is through His grace.
© Brittney Freeman 2014
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7 Comments Add yours
oh you guys, shes beautiful, just as she was when she was a baby, You come from a family of amazing folks, no wonder she turned out even more amazing… so proud of you, and thank you for sharing you are a gift from god from the start,,,, im just in tears now Julie, Troy,,, great job,.
Very courageous and inspirational story Brittney. You are very beautiful young woman and God has blessed you through your journey. Love you and Julie & Troy with all my heart!!! Kim
you are a very beautiful young lady thank you for sharing! my grand daughter is 6 and has just had surgery for the stoma. she is the sweetest kind hearted lil girl just like you.i too one day hope she can share her story
Hi, I really enjoyed reading your story. I have a 2,5 year old daughter with Bladder Exstrophy, and I, offcourse, think about telling or not telling, when time comes for her to go to school, so it’s nice to read a possitive story where it helped to tell. Thanks for sharing.
I remember emailing you with questions about how to help my son with the issues we had with bladder exstrophy about 7 years ago. You opened my eyes so much to things I had never thought about. A lot has changed for the better since you took the time to reach out to us and reading this knowing your doing the same for so many really makes me smile. You are truly a beautiful person inside and out!
Hi,I’m writing from Argentina, and I have a 4 year old daughter with BE, (Isabel) . she talks everybody about her BE, its so naturally for her… she is a happy girl Thanks for sharing. (sorry my little english)
This was a great read. Really well written.