I was the last person anyone would have expected to get cancer. Since high school, I’ve made a conscious effort to live a healthy and active lifestyle. My philosophy has always been to take care of myself, starting as a teenager. I like eating organic, good quality food and feel that my health is worth the extra expense. My whole adult life, I’ve done my best to treat my body well, and that’s why it was such a shock to learn I had breast cancer.
God has blessed me with more than one strong Christian woman I can go to for support and advice, so when I was diagnosed, my very first call was to the woman I consider my second mom. I knew she would steer me in the right direction, because she knows a lot about health and nutrition. She was the one who recommended I call Cancer Treatment Centers of America right away, which I did the next day.
My second call was to my pastor’s mother, who I consider my spiritual mom. I knew I needed her support, because I wasn’t going to be able to separate what was happening to me physically from who I am as a spiritual being. She prayed with me, and then I had to process how my life had just changed.
Cancer wasn’t the first challenge life had thrown at me. One of the first things I did after the doctor told me I had breast cancer was to take a trip down memory lane and recall all the things God had already brought me through. I had lost my sister and father during my teenage years. My first husband walked out on me and my two young children, leaving me as a single mom on a teacher’s salary. So I had already experienced adversity, and every time God had proven Himself faithful. I knew this situation wouldn’t be any different. God prepared me with those earlier losses to be able to handle my biggest challenge, breast cancer. So I didn’t focus on asking, "Why me?" Instead, I asked God, "What am I supposed to learn from this?"
One thing I love about Cancer Treatment Centers of America is knowing that my medical team cares about me as a whole person, as opposed to just a patient. I am not my cancer. I’m me. This place is a God-send and God has used different people here to help me bloom, develop and heal in all areas of my life. I am able to fully be myself because my team embraces where I am physically, emotionally and spiritually. I feel supported and cheered on by everybody, from the shuttle bus drivers to the cafeteria servers to my doctors and nurses. They all want me to succeed. They want me to live, as opposed to just existing, and that’s really important to me.
Complete Physical and Spiritual Care
My treatment for breast cancer lasted almost two years. I needed a lumpectomy and Herceptin chemotherapy treatments. My naturopathic doctor used various supplements to protect my body from the side effects of chemotherapy and strengthen my heart and liver. Thankfully, I was already strong physically because of my healthy lifestyle and that helped me fight the cancer. But I depended heavily on my naturopath and her expertise throughout my treatment. The naturopathic care and personalized nutritional support I received helped alleviate my physical discomfort from fatigue, light nausea and joint pain.
I also needed radiation therapy, which Cancer Treatment Centers of America was able to provide through the TOMO therapy machine. Over five weeks, I received daily treatments Monday through Friday. The radiation I received targeted the cancerous tissue while reducing the effect on healthy tissue, which meant I had fewer side effects. I could have had my radiation treatments given locally, which would have been more convenient. But I chose to have the treatment at CTCA because I trusted my team there and knew they cared about me. It was worth the extra time and commute to have that level of care.
While I received excellent medical care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, I also had all the spiritual and emotional support I needed at the hospital. Many of the people on my care team shared my faith, and they all supported it. There were Bible classes available both at the hospital and the hotel where I stayed. Someone was always available to meet any need, whether spiritual, emotional or physical.
I put my faith in God and believed He had a plan for me, but I still had bad days just like anyone else. I called them my Humpty Dumpty days, when I gave myself permission to fall apart and be human. At times I cried and fear would creep in, but God brought people to me in those moments to encourage and uplift me. One time, after the physician left and I was scared, my nurse who is a strong Christian held my hand and prayed with me. She gave me her phone number and let me know I could call anytime. That kind of connection with the people I met at CTCA made me feel at home. I knew I was in good hands, because my spiritual family was there.
While I received excellent medical care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, I also had all the spiritual and emotional support I needed at the hospital.
Focusing on Victory
My fight with breast cancer changed my life. My name, Nicolle, means victory and from the beginning it was important to me that I believe God would give me victory over cancer. I wasn’t going to let cancer define me or steal my dreams. In fact, God used cancer to give my life new purpose. My faith is at the core of who I am. I take it with me everywhere I go. My faith is what got me through my fight with cancer, and now I am taking that message of hope and healing and wholeness to other women. I don’t consider myself a cancer survivor. I consider myself a cancer thriver, because my goal is living. One of my life scriptures is Romans 8:28, that says:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
I know that I am placed on this earth and I am still here because I have a purpose. And cancer can’t kill purpose. Every day I try to live my life in a manner that gives God the glory. Faith doesn’t make things easy, but it does make them possible. That is what I want to communicate to other women facing breast cancer, and this message of hope has become my mission.
Embracing Life After Cancer
I remarried while I was going through cancer treatment, and my medical team made every effort to ensure I looked and felt my best for my wedding. Now I’m enjoying life with my husband and returning to the active lifestyle I love. I call myself a dare angel rather than a dare devil, and I convinced my husband to go zip-lining with me recently. That was exciting.
I’ve always been active in my church music ministry and drama program, and it was hard to take a step back from that while I fought cancer. Now that I’m better, it’s great to have the energy to get involved again.
It may seem odd, but God has used cancer to bring good things into my life. Every day I thank God for the fact that my house is filled with life, love and laughter. I have an incredible testimony now, and I’m excited to share it.
I have never regretted choosing Cancer Treatment Centers of America. God used this place to get me through my journey. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about CTCA. Sometimes people ask me, "Is it really like the commercials?"
And I say, "Yes. It’s just like that."