In January of 2020 Nicole, at 50 years of age noticed a marble-sized lump in her breast. Although Nicole had no family history of cancer, she still decided to be proactive with her health and get it checked. The doctor sent her to have a mammogram, ultrasound, and then finally a core-needle biopsy. Just a few weeks after discovering this lump, Nicole was shocked to learn it was triple-negative breast cancer; "that had not even been in my realm of thought; at no stage did I ever think it could be cancer!" she says.
After hearing the news while on her lunch break and knowing she would have to meet with surgeons and oncology teams, she walked back to work, informed her boss of the news, and then miraculously continued her workday. "It didn't really sink in at all yet" she says. Her then-husband had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma the year before and she would now have to inform him of her own cancer diagnosis. "For both of us, within 12 months to be diagnosed with cancer was just... I mean, what are the odds?"
Less than a month later Nicole was taken in for a successful lumpectomy and then had to begin chemotherapy treatment. "That's when it hit me that this is my new normal, when I was going to lose my hair. I was going to be different; I didn't know just how different I would be though’. Due to COVID and all the restrictions, her workplace set everyone up to work from home and she actually managed to continue to work full-time throughout her treatment. Over time Nicole began to feel incredibly isolated, unable to see friends and family due to covid restrictions. "It was a very, very lonely period in my life. There were a lot of times during chemo that I wanted to stop; it was just, it was too hard... it nearly broke me."
When asked about her resilience in finishing her treatment Nicole says, "Some days you want to have a little pity party for one, and then you have to get back up, put on your big girl panties and just keep going because…. you have to".
After undergoing intravenous chemotherapy, Nicole underwent radiation and was then told to start oral chemo pills. She began taking them but felt they weren't right for her after undertaking personal research, so she decided to approach her oncologist and advocate for herself. She discovered that she had been wrongly prescribed these drugs. She was taken off these pills and got the "all clear" on her last scans. Nicole returned to her workplace in March this year, feeling and looking "a lot different" but she says, "I have more strength than I thought I had and... more belief in myself (too)."
A key message she says is that "if you don't like the answer you've been given, keep questioning it until you get an answer that seems reasonable to you. Because nobody, including medical professionals, is perfect. We put all this faith in that one person, who goes through similar actions for every single patient, and when it comes to our body, we should be as good as possible (to advocate for)".
Nicole found Pink Hope on Facebook and says she feels that it has provided a place for her to know others have been through what she has and that it has made her feel supported.