Cancer treatments forced her to stop singing — then she made a triumphant return on Boston’s biggest stage

Brittany Wells singing the national anthem on the field at Fenway Park
“I was building up to prove to myself that I can still do it, that I can still sing,” says Northeastern graduate Brittany Wells, a cancer survivor who sang the national anthem at Fenway Park. Photo by Jaiden Tripi/Boston Red Sox

As she stood behind home plate at Fenway Park among her fellow cancer survivors and the players of two Major League Baseball teams, Brittany Wells experienced a sense of joy. 

Holding the microphone with both hands, she was about to sing the national anthem in Boston’s largest stadium. A cappella.

“I wasn’t nervous,” says Wells, a Northeastern graduate who was a key performer Wednesday in the annual Jimmy Fund Telethon hosted by the Boston Red Sox. “I was just excited. I was saying to myself, ‘This is so cool.’”

Since October 2021, when she felt a lump in her breast shortly after her 33rd birthday that led to a diagnosis of Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, Wells has endured what she calls a “wild ride.”

“I’ve had a number of surgeries,” says Wells, who does philanthropic work for a Boston law firm. “I went through chemotherapy and then I had a double mastectomy. Then I had radiation. And I still have more surgery coming up in February — my reconstruction surgery.

“It’s definitely a long road and it’s not something that you’re just done with. And then there is also the mental aspect of it, the anxiety and depression that you go through, and that doesn’t quite leave once you’re done with your treatment. It sticks around for a while because you can’t do much and your body has gone through so much.”

Wells, who grew up on Long Island in New York, began singing when she was 9. The cancer treatments forced her to stop singing for a time.

“Fatigue was one of the worst side effects,” she says. “It really can be debilitating and just transform your day to where you’re not able to do much of anything.

“It’s not easy to find that strength to keep going and push through,” says Wells, who is taking medication to deal with the fatigue as part of her ongoing treatment. “You just have to deal with it as it comes. For me that means taking naps or resting as much as I can — but also doing things that give me energy, like going for walks and getting more into fitness. It’s really difficult to find the strength to do those things but it works out for the best if you can push forward and find a balance.”

Wells credits her care team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with providing her with “terrific” support. “They’re always there for me,” she says.

Her therapist at Dana-Farber suggested that Wells resume singing a few months ago.

“My therapist thought it would help with my anxiety that I was experiencing as a side effect of my medication,” Wells says. “I started going back to church and singing with my church. It gave me something to look forward to.”

She rebuilt her capacity over the summer.

“My physical strength was affected by the fatigue and the side effects,” Wells says. “You have to be singing from your core. So I was building up. I was building up to prove to myself that I can still do it, that I can still sing. Singing is my favorite thing in the world to do.”

Since 1948 the Jimmy Fund has been raising money to support Dana-Farber’s efforts to research cancer and provide care for children and adults. Survivors of all ages were honored on the field before the Red Sox games on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a telethon that surpassed $3.5 million in donations.

“It was just incredible,” Wells says of the pregame ceremony. “I was so honored to be a part of it. It was my first time being part of something like that. I was taking it all in with the fellow survivors, the children — everyone’s smiling and having a great time and really enjoying themselves.”

Wells was gratified by the positive responses she received after her performance.

“I felt awesome,” she says. “I felt so great and so proud of myself that I really did that. I was still living in the moment for the time afterwards and that’s something that’s great to do once you’ve done such a momentous thing like that.

“I found that it was easier to go through the process kind of blind and not really knowing what to expect,” Wells says of her ongoing cancer treatment. “Because everybody’s journey is so different as far as treatment goes, and how your body reacts. I had some really difficult times but luckily I had my mom and my family for support. 

“The great thing is that there is a positive side to it. You’re not the same person in the beginning that you are in the end. It’s like a transformation that you go through. And you learn so much. I learned about my strength. I learned so many things about myself that I didn’t know. You’re kind of like rebuilding who you are after some low points.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.