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Meet Nicole

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As we begin a new year we have a new member of our community to get to know better. Meet Nicole better known on our community as nicolem. You may recognize her from her kind voice that you read on the community.

My name is Nicole and I’m a 34-year-old woman from Vancouver, BC.  I’ve lived on the west coast of Canada my whole life, spent my summers on the ocean and my winters skiing the mountains. These days I spend my free time running the Stanley Park seawall, practicing yoga and relaxing with my partner and friends.

 
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          Me after completing my 2nd marathon September 2014.
 
 My journey with cancer began in the fall of 2015.  After a rocky start to the year, life took an upwards swing and I landed a great job as the Communications Manager for a renowned not for profit agency, and started dating and moved in with my amazing partner Mike. 
 
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 Mike and I on a wine tour of the Okanagan

 
 
   I had been experiencing pain and cramping in my lower abdomen but as someone who was prone to cysts on my ovaries, I just assumed I had new one or it had something to with the darn IUD that had been nothing but trouble since I’d gotten it put in. September 2015 I finally had removed thinking the symptoms would improve but things only got worse.
 
After ignoring the symptoms for a couple more months, Mike finally insisted that I go see a doctor.  So off I went.  After explaining the symptoms to the doctor, he did a routine pap test and told me that given the symptoms I was presenting he was going to push me through to see a gynecologist for further testing.  The results of my pap were normal so I didn’t see any need to worry while I waited to see the gynecologist. 
 
In that initial appointment, it was recommended that I have a LEEP procedure and a biopsy was taken.  The biopsy results didn’t show cancer but the LEEP procedure did… On March 15th, 2016 I got the news that I had invasive squamous cell carcinoma – cervical cancer stage 1b1. 

To say that I was shocked was understatement.  I didn’t know what to feel, it all seemed so surreal.  Breast cancer runs in my family and I ‘d always thought it would be something I would likely face in the future but cervical cancer was not on my radar nor would I have ever guessed that all my symptoms would lead to that.  I have wanted kids my whole life and now what?
 
The gynecological team at the Cancer Agency said I was an excellent candidate for a Radical Trachelectomy (80% removal of the cervix) to preserve my fertility. Since my initial response to my diagnosis was to turn to Google to find out everything I could on cervical cancer, I asked about chemo, radiation and other options I had read about.  I was insured that surgery was the best course of action. They were confident it was all I would need and we moved forward with it. 

The surgery was a success and the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes… but the news wasn’t all good.  My surgeon hadn’t got any clean margins around the tumour and I had extensive lymphvascular invasion.  

The next few weeks moved pretty quickly. It was all a whirlwind and I just listened and took for certain what the doctors said.  If I could do it all over again, I would have done more of my own research. Perhaps I could have gotten a second opinion or found other options but no sense dwelling on what I can’t change. I went through 2 rounds of fertility preservation (the first was unsuccessful), 25 rounds of radiation, 5 of chemotherapy and 4 brachytherapy treatments. 

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Mike making me laugh my first chemo 

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Me getting ready for brachytherapy

 
 
To the outside world I think handled myself pretty well.  On my own, I struggled with the weight of emotions and think I tried to avoid it. When I was first diagnosed I joked that ‘I just had a little cancer, no big deal”.  Mike and I made all kinds of jokes about it. Minimizing it with humour made it that much easier to talk about and that less scary to face. I carried that attitude through treatment, remained as positive as I could and tried to keep life as normal as possible.
 
Today I am back at work full-time, feeling pretty good aside from the menopause symptoms and few lingering side-effects of treatment.  My family and friends have been a big source of support and positivity and Mike was by my side every step of the way.  His encouragement, love and support made it all that much easier. 
 
My cancer was caught early and I didn’t have to battle and fight for my life like so many others do.  In that sense, I felt like my story wasn’t as serious or valuable as some one else’s story.  I felt that I needed to just get back to life as it was, things could have been so much worse. 
 
Without treatments to focus on, I am only left with the sadness and grief of infertility.  I do my best to stay positive, reminding myself that I have 9 eggs frozen in a fridge somewhere, just waiting to be used. I have options.  On some days, if not most, it works but there are days where I just don’t win the battle.  I haven’t quite figured out how to come to terms with the loss, how to grieve for an experience that I will never have. I don’t have the answers to these questions yet but in time I know I will come to terms with it.  Although my battle with cancer has ended, the potential struggle to build a family has yet to begin. I avoid thinking too much about how that journey will unfold, but I know that some way, some how we will be blessed with a family.  Until then, I allow myself to grieve (in short periods of time so not to be consumed by it).  I remind myself of all the good things in my life, of all the other amazing experiences and milestones that are yet to come.  Life goes on and so will I. 

Thank you so much for sharing your courageous story with us Nicole not only have you dealt with cancer but also the loss of fertility-You are a strong young lady. Your story stresses the importance of paying attention to our bodies and getting checked out. Thanks for helping to spread awareness.
 
 
 
 

 

 
              




Comments

I love how positive you remain throughout all this! Your story made me cry as we share a similar story. Good for you for telling your story, often we hear much about cancer but not about the loss of fertility. Each and every one of our stories are valuable, no matter what stage we are at :)
  • Posted Sun 15 Jan 2017 10:10 PM EST
Thank you for the sweet message. I often struggle with how much to share my story but there is so much we don't talk about that we should...
  • Posted Mon 16 Jan 2017 11:43 AM EST
Great story Nicole! All the best moving forward.
  • Posted Wed 04 Jan 2017 03:40 PM EST
Thank you and to you as well!
  • Posted Mon 16 Jan 2017 11:38 AM EST
Ya good good Nicole - Stupid squamous eh? You sure showed it!
  • Posted Tue 03 Jan 2017 02:56 AM EST
Haha ya we can't let it get the best of us!
  • Posted Mon 16 Jan 2017 11:40 AM EST

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