Editorial content by Alexandra Houser Vukoder
In the spring of 2013, when Nicole Galloway, then 36, found out she had breast cancer, it wasn’t the first time she had heard those dreaded words “You have cancer”. Twenty years earlier, Nicole had been diagnosed and successfully treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her physician feels that most likely her breast cancer can be attributed to the lifesaving radiation she had for her lymphoma as a teenager. Nicole was initially angry, but after she reflected on her situation, she says that although the radiation may have contributed to her breast cancer, she is grateful for the 20 cancer free years it afforded her.
“And in that 20 years I’ve made lifelong friends, gained new family, met my amazing husband and had two beautiful children. I’d beat cancer once and that’s what I, along with my HUGE support system, was going to do again,” Nicole said confidently.
After carefully weighing her options and the recommendations of her medical team, Nicole decided a bilateral mastectomy followed by six rounds of chemotherapy was the best course for her and her family. Treatment decisions are never simple and are always deeply personal. Nicole faced questioning on what some felt was too aggressive of an approach to her Stage I cancer. She asks that you remember a few things before you decide to weigh in on someone else’s treatment decisions.
“Everyone is different and even though many are diagnosed with breast cancer, there are so many different types and each respond differently, affecting the course of treatment. Making a treatment decision is tough and can be complicated. None of it is fun and offering support is the best way to be helpful to a cancer patient.”
Support is just what Nicole and her family received–in abundance! Nicole recounts how much immediate and extended family as well as long time and new friends reached out to them during this time.
“We are so lucky and so blessed to have so many amazing people willing to do whatever they could to help our family through this. We are especially thankful to our parents and our families, as well as my very dear friends Theresa, Bonnie and my sister-in-law, Tammy “Sissy”. We felt the support of my fellow survivors and the community of Manchester. This small town we live in showered us with love and encouragement. We will never be able to thank everyone enough but just know you all had a part in this successful journey!”
The American Cancer Society also was a resource for Nicole during her treatment. She utilized the Society’s transportation assistance program.
In addition to all of the people who helped them and the community resources, Nicole and her family credit attitude and faith with successfully navigating this bumpy road. “Laughter has been our best medicine. It’s not that we don’t take this seriously, but we realized we had two choices; we could let cancer control our lives and walk around sad all the time or we could take control of the cancer and choose to laugh and love every moment we can!”
Nicole is almost one year past her final chemotherapy treatment. She is feeling great and doing what she can to help other cancer patients in her community. Nicole has been a dedicated volunteer with the American Cancer Society for many years. She worked to recruit enrollees for the Society’s Cancer Prevention Study, a countrywide, landmark research project looking at lifestyle choices as they relate to cancer. Today, Nicole is spearheading the survivorship activities for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Canton this October.
“I believe we can finish the fight against cancer, but it can’t be done without research and funding. All need to get involved. It is not hard and the reward is great!”
When asked how what she hopes others take away from her story, Nicole says, “Let people help, utilize available resources and laugh… Laugh until it hurts.”
For information on how to join Nicole, her husband Troy and their sons, Ty and Ian, for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, visit www.makingstrides.org.
For more information on American Cancer Society programs or other breast cancer support programs, visit www.cancer.org/breastcancer or call 800-227-2345.
I have Breast Cancer