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  • Writer's pictureSharon Bina

Nicki's Journey

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Nicki knows firsthand that cancer survivors who have completed treatments still need to focus on new life lessons.

Nicki's radiant smile 2 miles high!!

At the age of 26, Nicki hit her chest above her left breast on a car door. She assumed a bruise had developed under the skin, but the pain didn't go away, and she developed a lump. The pain increased over the next few weeks and became so painful she couldn’t wear a seat belt. Nicki began to do research assuming an internal bruise had a long healing process. And, while she contacted the Levine Cancer Institute for breast health information and advice, the idea of cancer was never a concern given her young age. The nurse at Levine Cancer Institute recommended she have it checked out. Following multiple sonograms and mammograms, the Radiologist confirmed Nicki did indeed have a lump, but the tests were inconclusive, and they were unable to determine the cause of the lump. He stated a biopsy was the only way to know what the lump was, but he didn't have any concerns or urgency since she was young, healthy and cancer did not usually cause pain and discomfort like she was having.

Nicki is a very ambitious, strong-minded lady and became her own advocate and decided to have the biopsy. She tried several times to get an appointment but was getting conflicting stories about who could provide a referral. Ironically the nurse from Levine Cancer Institute called, they worked out the details and scheduled an appointment for Nicki in November.

Nicki however, had decided to wait until January, much to the dismay of her Mother. The day she was going to reschedule her appointment, the nurse from Levine Cancer Institute again followed up with her, and urged Nicki to have the biopsy as soon as possible; if nothing else for peace of mind. With Nicki’s Mom and the nurse’s persuasion, Nicki had the biopsy. Two days after her appointment, it was confirmed she had stage II breast cancer. The Doctor told her that hitting the car door brought the lump to the surface. Nicki spent 1 year in treatments and is now 4 years in remission.

Nicki's difficulties with cancer were not during her treatments since she had the fight or flight mentality. While there were naturally moments of despair where the treatments seemed unbearable, her treatments were practically a blur.

It wasn’t until a year after her treatments completed that she began to feel the challenges of all she endured during her journey. Nicki experienced flashbacks, suffered from severe anxiety, depression, and extreme mentally challenging moments in coping with her breast cancer experience. To her, cancer recurrence is real and there are moments when these thoughts consume your daily life. She made the decision following her survival of breast cancer to continue living her best life, with no regrets, taking every opportunity to travel, have fun, and enjoy new experiences. She decided to go skydiving for her 31st birthday, with the mindset that after conquering cancer, she could also conquer the fear of jumping out of a plane. The day she went skydiving, she was totally focused on what she was doing and appreciated the experience of easing her thoughts about cancer. Since skydiving, Nicki can replace some of her anxieties of cancer recurrence with her skydiving experience.

Nicki saw skydiving as a powerful tool that helped her realize she can live life fearlessly and to the fullest with her second chance at life.

For Nicki, skydiving was one of the most exhilarating experiences of her life. There's nothing like the rush of adrenaline and beauty in the 30-second free fall, and then the peacefulness of being under the canopy floating in the sky.

Nicki says, "2 Miles of Smiles is needed to empower those that have completed treatments and are "surviving cancer" since most channels of help are designated for people in treatment." Cancer patients go through something tangible, so people acknowledge what they are experiencing. However, for the cancer survivor who has completed their treatments, people assume that cancer is behind them and their lives will go back to normal. Often, that is not the case, since surviving cancer can sometimes be harder than treatments.

Nicki knows firsthand that cancer survivors who have completed treatments still need to focus on new life lessons, using tools and activities that will empower them to feel alive again while focusing on the present, which is how 2 Miles of Smiles will help people “surviving cancer”.

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